From The Brooklyn Rail
Nowhere do we find a more shameful squandering of human labor-power for the most despicable purposes than in England, the land of machinery.
- Karl Marx, 1867
You probably first heard of him when reading, on Bloomberg.com or in the pages of The New Yorker, about his role as one of the “founders” of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some of you might have stumbled across him even earlier, when The New York Times published a short article on the openly anarchist anthropology professor whose politics, he lamented, thwarted his plans for tenure at Yale. Others, probably a bit younger, and having drifted into post-2008 “radical” politics, first found him on Twitter, where he assiduously maintains contact with almost 70,000 followers. Slightly older radicals will recognize him as an eager participant in and chronicler of the turn-of-the-century anti-globalization movement. Slate, The Guardian, The Financial Times and other organs of the prevailing powers open their column space to his reflections on technology, money, and Corbynism, or his calls for Western succor to the “revolutionary Kurds” of Rojava (who have, for years now, enjoyed the lethal air support of US war planes). The son of NYC leftists—his father fought in the storied Abraham Lincoln Brigades—and one of the venerable Marshall Sahlins’s last students, David Graeber is today best known for his monumental 2011 book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, which appeared just a couple of months before the establishment of the Zuccotti Park camp. That book, in the works for years, seemed, due as much to its timing as to its content, the theoretical and historical work most attuned to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its demands. Now, seven years after that publication—and the rise and folding up of that movement—Graeber has followed his earlier examination of the “barter myth” and the priority of debt over exchange relations throughout human history with a new book, this time on a contemporary matter: the “current work regime.” Or as he puts it in his insistently populist idiom, the “proliferation of bullshit jobs.”
In 2013, Graeber reports on the first page of Bullshit Jobs, he published a short article that “set off a very minor international sensation.”1 The thrust of that piece was to highlight what he claimed was a glut of “completely pointless” make-work jobs crowding labor markets in contemporary capitalist societies, and to give hints as to why, in a social order that claims to prize the efficient allocation of resources, so much human labor-power seems squandered in doing so. Since many, perhaps most, wage laborers in the developed economies of Europe and North America—and not just there—do find their current employment boring and pointless, a waste of attention and activity that could be put to better use, the piece struck a chord. Short, maybe rushed, follow-up pieces found places in the media outlets that have reliably hosted Graeber. Commentary poured in from all quarters. The Economist responded; mid-level bank employees sent emails. Graeber concluded that he was onto something important. He wrote the piece up into a book. Five years later, Simon & Schuster has just published the US edition; Allen Lane, a Penguin Press imprint, the British. Translations will follow. A very minor international frisson is pulsing through the webs of social media. The buzz is only beginning.
The book’s core claim is that in the US, the UK, and other economies in which the financial sector generates more income than all others, including manufacturing, and in which most workers spend their days performing what are confusingly called “services,” there are an inordinate number of pointless and even pernicious jobs. In these jobs, which Graeber categorizes as “information work,” people do very little of value, while the jobs themselves exact an enormous “spiritual” toll on those compelled to perform them and on the shredded social fabric of which these occupations make a larger and larger part. The evidence confirming this feature of the contemporary world of work is ubiquitous, and incontrovertible. Bullshit Jobs, however, has a hard time penetrating the crust of the obvious. Graeber’s conceptual schema is imprecise and elusive, and it seems so almost by design.
In a first pass at trying to size up these “bullshit jobs”—in order to distinguish them from, say, merely “shit jobs”—Graeber hits upon the idea of “positive social value,” to which he contrasts “mere market value.” Market value, the going rate someone will pay for a given good or service, is measurable; positive social value is not. According to Graeber, the only way to assess the social value is, paradoxically, to rely on the first-person individual testimony of the worker who performs the tasks required of a given occupation: “All I’m really saying here is that since there is such a thing as social value, as apart from mere market value, but since no one has ever figured out an adequate way to measure it, the worker’s perspective is about as close as one is likely to get to an accurate assessment of the situation.” Though the history of the labor movement offers a rich if minor tradition of militant inquiry into workers’ own experience of domination and struggle within the workplace, Graeber has something else in mind. He culls examples from the “great deal of online discussion” generated, he tells us, by his initial piece, while also soliciting confirmation from his Twitter following. Yet this attentiveness to the singularity of subjective experience produces a definition of “valuable” work at times dizzyingly banal (it makes “a meaningful difference in the world,” etc.), and at bottom wrongheaded, one Graeber refuses to take responsibility for, palming it off on the rest of us as so much “common sense.” Calling on the testimony of “Tom” and “Rupert,” he concludes that, however refractory to objective measurement it may be, the “unstated common sense” prevailing among his online devotees is that “when a good or service answers a demand or otherwise improves people’s lives, then it can be considered genuinely valuable.” Graeber elaborates: such jobs must “answer a genuine consumer demand” (my emphasis). And in case you were wondering what, for Graeber, “social” means, the fog lifts when he specifies that worthwhile occupations can be considered those “essential to the health and prosperity of the nation.”
In fact, Graeber tries out a number of definitions of good, honest work as the book plods forward. Eventually he arrives at a formulation that seems to stick, no doubt in part because it belongs to an age-old tendency in classical political economy, and appeals to the self-evidence supposedly prized by common sense. Those activities and occupations that meet consumer demand and contribute to the vitality and wealth of the nation amount, we are assured, to “actually making, moving, fixing, maintaining things” (in a slightly different version: “actually making, maintaining, fixing, or transporting things”). These are the features of what Adam Smith characterized as “productive” labor, by which he meant that “labour of the manufacturer [that] adds, generally, to the value of the materials which he works upon.” To this value-adding labor Smith opposed a vast and varied cast of unproductive workers typical of the late eighteenth century: “churchmen, lawyers, physicians, men of letters of all kinds; players, buffoons, musicians, opera-singers, opera-dancers, &c.”2 Graeber implicitly concedes this well-worn distinction between productive and unproductive labor on several occasions, referring to the work of making, moving, and maintaining things as “real, productive.” Whatever its appeals to the immediacy of workers’ lived experience—the vivid sense of pointlessness relayed to Graeber by his followers—the conceptual assumptions of the book are drawn from old-growth political economy, not to mention a recently revised populist idyll that regrets an age of fat and plenty when “we” actually made (or moved or maintained) things.
The distinction between productive and unproductive labor has a long history in the discipline of economics. Smith uses it to oppose the manufacturing and agricultural sectors to what we now call the service sector (exemplarily, for Smith, “menial” servants and government personnel). But Smith, like Graeber, confuses productive labor with its concrete content; they both presume to adjudicate the matter on the basis of observing, directly, the nature of the activity in question, as opposed to examining its place in the social mode of production as a system. Identifying real, productive labor with making and moving things seems to exclude tens of millions of US jobs in the health and education sectors—unless one takes the home health care aide who changes bedsheets and administers medication to an elderly or ill patient as fixing or maintaining things. The equation of socially valuable work with productive labor also presumes the social utility of any produced good, provided it is a “thing”: Swiss chard, methamphetamine, baby formula, or assault rifle. Are truckers who transport thousands of gallons of cheap, corn syrup-derived carbonated drinks from the bottling plants to massive retail sites on the outskirts of rural towns performing labor more socially “useful” than, say, the poorly-paid receptionist at a doctor’s office, who assists patients in filing insurance forms? Is the labor performed on a ranch that raises thousands of pounds of cattle—producing, in turn, enormous quantities of climate-subverting methane gas—each year on packed, disease-ridden lots to provide cheap beef to these same poorly-paid workers unequivocally a social good? Do workers in textile factories in Indonesia producing handbags for upper middle-class shoppers in the suburbs of NYC feel satisfied, because they are making discrete and supposedly useful objects, that the work they perform contributes some positive social “good”?
It is easy to multiply such examples, such questions; it is clear, from those I arbitrarily chose, that the matter of what is deemed socially useful is a political question, not a matter of opinion. But even this line of reasoning misses the real point here. Presuming the play between productive and unproductive labor is useful at all here—the notion of “productive” labor underpins all of Graeber’s argument, such as it is3—requires that we bracket any reference to the concrete activity (making/moving/maintaining) being performed as decisive. The great virtue of Marx’s reworking of Smith’s categories lay in his focus not on their concrete content (the kind of labor and its product) but on a given activity’s location within the process by which labor is put to work to produce a profit for capital, since profit—not the satisfaction of social demand as such—is the ultimate point of production in capitalism. The same activity—say, emptying bedpans—can be unwaged when performed by family members, “unproductive” when a health-care aide is paid out of that same family’s personal income, and “productive” when the health-worker’s wages are paid by an employer who sells the employee’s services to a consumer. Such conceptual discriminations cannot be observed directly with the senses; the difference is not in the concrete activity itself, but in the social form within which the activity is embedded.
Distinguishing activities paid out of personal income from those—perhaps the same—paid for by a business owner is one way to make the distinction between productive and unproductive labor. Another is to differentiate between activities that produce a saleable commodity, regardless of whether it is a good or a service, and the activities required to transform these commodities into money. Advertising, storage, accounting, the drawing up of legal contracts: so many operations constructing the moment of exchange, that instant when money changes hands. Consider the cashier, certainly the holder of a bullshit job by anyone’s estimation. The cashier makes, maintains, and fixes nothing. He is the paper pusher par excellence: he facilitates the process of exchange, by which possession of a good or service is transferred to a buyer in exchange for money. Such labor expedites, in a capitalist society, the “realization” of the value added in production, its transformation into money which can be reinvested in production or spent on consumption by the business owner, at the same time permitting consumers access to commodities, whatever their social utility (Swiss chard, methamphetamine, baby formula, or assault rifle). So much of the labor performed by workers across the world, and particularly in high-income countries, is just this: subjectively pointless, yet objectively necessarily for the distribution of goods and services produced, as they are in our societies, by private firms whose sole objective is not the meeting of social needs but the transformation of an initial sum of money into a larger one.4
Graeber compounds his error—evaluating and sorting occupations on the basis of whether they do or do not add value through the “actual” manipulation of material things—later in the book by mapping this distinction onto entire sectors of the economy. In point of fact, the border between productive and unproductive activity evoked above now exists in every sector of the economy, it runs through every private capitalist firm, and often even traverses a single occupation, depending on the types of tasks grouped under a particular job description. Bullshit Jobs, however, has no interest in such analytical precautions. At a time when the financial sector’s share of GDP in the US and the UK has long outstripped that of manufacturing—and given the role its newfangled financial technologies played in the global economic crisis of 2008—Graeber’s crosshairs are unsurprisingly trained on the fat cats of Wall and Lombard Streets. Yet his treatment of this matter is decidedly populist in its design, with the operations of banks, credit, and capital markets presented over and over again as an intricate, hoodwinking “scam” (“a scam of sorts,” “basically a scam”) perpetrated by a tiny elite positioned with value-siphoning straws at the summit of the social food chain. This rhetoric comes complete with a fable about a period just before the “fusion” of finance and large industry (companies that actually make, move, and maintain things) in the mid-1970s. Graeber’s is a story about the changing “moral responsibilities” of corporations, and how conscientious leaders of industry—“executives in firms dedicated to producing breakfast cereals, or agricultural machinery”—once had a special contempt for the razzle-dazzle of the money lenders and stock pickers, seeing “themselves as having more in common with production-line workers in their own firms than they did with speculators and investors.” Once upon a time, and not long ago, the captains of industry and workers on the shop-floor, those whose activity was equally “essential to the health and prosperity of the nation,” formed a bulwark against the predations of those who exchange money for money alone; if they share in common neither the ownership of the means of production nor the streams of income such ownership entitles them to, their socially useful activity stood starkly against the nihilism of the shadowy world of banks and the providers of financial services.
The contention that “during most of the twentieth century, large industrial corporations were very much independent of, and to some degree even hostile to, the interests of what was called ‘high finance’” is, though, a hard sell. The first two decades of the twentieth century generated a spate of theorizations of the then-novel integration of the banking and industrial sectors. Hilferding and Lenin, to summon only the obvious cases, examined this new era of trusts and cartels as a mature mutation of the capitalist order, in which heretofore unprecedented concentrations of capital gave rise to monopolies that troubled the “efficient” allocating function of markets and price signals. Some, like Giovanni Arrighi, have argued that the subordination of the “productive” sector to the logic and sway of finance capital is, understood historically, a cyclical phenomenon, indexing a coming crisis of accumulation. Were we to ask just why finance has assumed such a preponderance since the ’70s, we could do worse than look there. Doing so would require that we be concerned with the ups and (mostly) downs of the capitalist mode of production of the past five decades.5
Undoubtedly the scale of financial operations in the core capitalist countries can be chalked up in part to the expanding global division of labor characteristic of the current age. More to the point, however, is that because capital is mobile, and because it by definition seeks the highest rate of return on investment, it is extremely sensitive to discrepancies in profit in different industries and sectors of the economy. Since the rate of profit in manufacturing and industry across the world more generally has, by all accounts and on average, declined over the course of the past five decades, it is no surprise that capital began to pour into activities that promise a higher return on investment.6 One of the salient features of the capitalist mode of production is that asset-owners who are not productive industrial capitalists—landlords, money-capitalists, merchants, and so on—are able to capture surplus value generated by productive capital. From the perspective of a given sum of capital, the distinction between value-producing activities and those that merely circulate capital is irrelevant. There is a single law of gravity that operates on all capital-owners: the rate of profit. Finance is only one among many ways to capture a share of already-produced surplus value; retail giants like Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba, for example, derive most of their revenue from operations that add no value to the wares they offer online, yet are required for the circuit of capital to close, and money to return to its source (in this case an array of producers, money-capitalists, etc.) as more money.
In Bullshit Jobs, Graeber shows no interest about why the financial sector assumed a paramount position in the workings of the global economy around 1975. The rise of the financial sector is important for him only as an explanation of why bullshit jobs are so numerous. Almost all growth in unproductive employment since the 1970s has, Graeber inexplicably claims, been in the financial sector, which he enlarges to include related industries like insurance and real estate (often lumped under the sign of FIRE), then expands further to include something he calls “information work.” How, he asks, in an economy in which the winners survive and thrive through the most efficient allocation of resources, can so much waste prevail in the use of human-labor power? Precisely because the financial sector is a scam; because it is predatory and rent-seeking; because it sponges off real value-adding labor; because, in the case of one major US bank, “roughly two-thirds of its profits were derived from ‘fees and penalties’,” rather than through efficiencies in the use of labor and capital, and innovations that boost labor productivity.7 The profits thus extracted resemble less profits than rents or taxes, like those exacted by landlords or sovereign governments. In this way, executives heading these firms live like rural notables of the ancien régime. This social crust, Graeber’s argument goes, thrives on fixed income streams and lavishes these ill-gotten gains on all manner of luxuries—above all, salaried assistants and what the early political economists called “menial servants”: flunkies, doormen, personal assistants, and underlings of every stripe. The raison d’être of the financial sector is not premium rates of return on investment but the production of what Bullshit Jobs flatly names “hierarchy”—an “infatuation with hierarchy for its own sake”—in which power means the accumulation of subordinates, suck-ups, and sycophants.
Graeber’s claim is not, however, that this ethos of hierarchy and command rather than profit-seeking is confined to the growing (at least in GDP terms) financial sector. This would be less provocative, less likely to create a minor international sensation. His argument is that, with the fusion of industry and finance, the private sector as a whole has assumed this archaic character. This has resulted in the bureaucratization of the private sector, as enormous firms concerned ostensibly with market share and profit rates in fact function as gigantic generators of reticulated hierarchies in which millions of mid-level administrators—“salaried paper pushers,” according to Graeber—are kept on the payroll not because they serve a necessary function, but because they allow for the proliferation of hierarchies, power pyramids, and chains of command in which everyone is the superior of someone, and everyone equally someone’s errand boy, PA, or bouc émissaire. Indeed, taking the financial sector as a paradigm for the economy as a whole, Graeber suggests that, “One possible reason for [the] proliferation [of hierarchies] might be that the existing system isn’t capitalism.” What we thought was a system focused on the production of profit by means of the exploitation of labor is in fact a system of “rent extraction,” an order founded on prestige and abjection animated by tournaments of one-upmanship and humiliation, which Graeber calls “managerial feudalism.”
The picture Graeber paints of the “current work regime” is that of “millions of human beings spending years of their lives pretending to type into spreadsheets or preparing mind maps for PR meetings.” This is undoubtedly true. But since the global work force in 2017 stood at 3.5 billion strong, according to World Bank estimates, we can assume there are many more millions of human beings doing something else entirely.8 Indeed, the strange claim at the center of Graeber’s new book is that the explosive growth of the service sector—today, four of five jobs in the US are “service” occupations—over the past half century is entirely due to the massive addition of “pointless” employment in the FIRE sector, where hired toadies tinker with Excel and spitball advertising strategies to while away their days. After distinguishing between those who make, move, and maintain things and the rest of us, Graeber draws a line through the service sector itself: “The proportion of the workforce made up of actual waiters, barbers, salesclerks and the like,” he hallucinates, is “really quite small.” The share of total employment in all service occupations other than those in the FIRE sector has, he confirms, “remained remarkably steady over time, holding for more than a century at roughly 20 percent. The vast majority of those others included in the service sector were really administrators, consultants, clerical and accounting staff, IT professionals, and the like . . . It seems reasonable to conclude . . . that the bulk of the new service jobs added to the economy [since 1992] were really of the same sort.”9
In fact, since the 1970s, the advanced economies of the “West” have seen a dizzying expansion of low-wage, low-skill employment across the board, not least in retail and restaurants, but especially in healthcare and education. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the fastest growing occupations in the US offers a sobering correction to Graeber’s tableau of do-nothing “salaried paper pushers:” personal care aides, home health aides, “combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food,” retail salespersons, nursing assistants, customer service representatives, restaurant cooks, medical assistants, and “janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners.” Eleven of the fifteen occupations require no college degree, most no formal education at all. The median pay for most is $25,000 annually, or less.10 This is the “current regime of work,” for those who have eyes to see. It is a world in which a sizable share of employment in the putatively rich countries takes the form of poorly-paid work tending to the sick and the young, making and serving cheap food to other poor people, or cleaning offices, warehouses, and hotel rooms, after the salaried paper-pushers are off the clock.
The vision of the world proposed by Bullshit Jobs is reminiscent above all of the prognostications developed by the academic sociology of the 1950s and 1960s, which predicted the near coming of a white-collar, middle-class world in which a constantly fatter layer of the salaried labor force would be tasked with carrying out administrative tasks: a world of “salaried paper pushers.” Where those theories, like the competing accounts of state capitalism developed in the decades just prior, imagined a world in which market dynamics and price signals would play less and less of a role in economic decisions, Graeber paints a world in which rent-seeking bureaucrats in the private and public sector alike allocate labor and capital in pursuit not of higher rates of return on capital investment, but of personal domination, of “hierarchy” and power. To make this claim, which one could expect of an anarchist who works in public sector higher education, he must turn a blind eye to the world around; he reaches for Twitter, and followers, for the testimony of “rebel banker[s]” and “corporate lawyers”—his cited interlocutors—instead. Rather than take aim at the predations of the labor market, which forces workers to compete against one another for fewer, poorly-paid jobs, Graeber offers his readership a group self-portrait, an office comedy sending up the minor slights of the cubicle, the email chain, and prepared lunches. In the face of a capitalist world lurching from crisis to catastrophe, shaped by a dramatic polarization of the workforce, tepid productivity figures, a stagnant technology sector operating in monopoly-like conditions, and a decades-long tapering off of profit rates across economic sectors, Bullshit Jobs plays us an old standard: the bureaucratization of the world. That most workers in capitalist societies find their work pointless and pernicious has as much to do with the social relations that envelop it as the content of the work itself. That wage labor is compulsory for all but a few and conducted under capitalist conditions—rationalized, disciplined—transforms even attractive labor into an experience of servility. We have every reason to believe that, in a world in which production is no longer organized on capitalist lines, a sizable share of such bullshit jobs will be rendered, like the human appendix, unnecessary, their residual presence a mystery, a matter for the natural sciences. But in this case, we will have abolished wage-labor altogether.
- David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018), p. xv.
- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), pp. 351-52.
- Graeber mentions the distinction and this tradition in passing, in order to dismiss it out of hand, and in his usual folksy way.
- Consider again the office assistant who helps a patient file the paperwork necessary to convince an insurance company to provide coverage for a particular procedure or medicine; imagine attempting to do so oneself, and decide whose (unpaid or paid) labor in this scenario is more “useful,” yours or the assistant’s. In a rational society in which insurance companies did not exist and in which health-care was freely provided, an army of clerical staff—smaller than that mobilized today—would be necessary to manage the massive distribution of medical services and goods necessary in wealthy, complex societies.
- Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994). The most compelling recent critical revision of the early 20th century debates on global finance and imperialism is Tony Norfield’s The City: London and the Global Power of Finance (London: Verso, 2016).
- To be clear, the structural crisis of the 1970s is almost universally understood, among Marxists, to be a crisis of profitability. While some authors see a recovery of profit rates in the 1980s and 1990s, this is the subject of lively and important debates. For a survey of recent writing on the subject, with particular emphasis of the 2008 crisis, see Deepankaur Basu and Ramaa Vasudevan’s “Technology, Distribution and the Rate of Profit in the U.S. Economy: Understanding the Current Crisis,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 37:1 (January 2013): 57–89.
- Graeber offers no source for this datum; typically, his most extravagant claims are neither footnoted nor referenced. A widely-cited source for these types of data offers a more plausible statistic: “In the first three quarters of 2016, overdraft/NSF fee revenue accounted for an average of 8.1 percent of reporting banks’ net income, unchanged from the same period in 2015.” See https://uspirg.org/reports/usp/big-banks-big-overdraft-fees
- These data are attributed to an uncited source (“Robert Taylor, a library scientist”) from a study done in 1992—the study is not listed in the bibliography, or footnoted. In fact, financial sector employment has remained around 5 percent since 1949.
- Graeber’s assertions can be easily refuted by the quickest glance at the numbers supplied by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (or its UK equivalent). There we find that occupations grouped under “financial activities” amount to barely more than five percent of employment in the US, and that this number has declined since 2006, despite a rapid rise in GDP share after the 2008 crisis. On the contrary, jobs in “leisure and hospitality” and in “retail trade” along made up, together, twenty percent of the labor force in 2016. The health care sector is by far the largest sector, providing 13.2 percent of US jobs; it is also the fastest growing sector, with a projected increase, by 2026, of 1.9 percent. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t06.htm
From Daily Emerald
Rioters ran through the streets of downtown Eugene, blocking traffic and resisting arrest on June 18, 1999. The event had escalated from an international protest named “Carnival Against Capital” earlier that same day. People went to the nearest bank and started smashing windows according to John Zerzan, a prominent, Eugene-based anarchist thinker. Activist Rob los Ricos, who was present at the riot, ended up spending seven years in prison for hitting a cop in the shoulder with a rock.
“Nobody would have predicted that,” Zerzan said about the spontaneous downtown riot. “No anarchists were planning it, but it was called the ‘Anarchist Riot’ in the giant front page headline the next day.”
From the riot, two were hospitalized, more than 25 arrested and over a hundred left with minor throat and eye wounds caused from anti-riot tear gas, according to an Oregonian article published the day after.
It was around this time that the city of Eugene began to develop a national reputation for anarchist movements and activism. In 2000, the Chicago Tribune described the city as a “cradle to [the] latest generation of anarchist protesters.” That reputation may have since diminished, but traces of Eugene’s once bustling anarchist community are still alive today.
At the time, then Republican mayor Jim Torrey labeled Eugene as the “Anarchist Capital of the United States.” He considered the protests to have a definite negative impact on the city.
“We had a substantial amount of anarchism going on in Eugene at that time,” Torrey said. He remembers anarchists “throwing rocks through windows, blocking traffic, attacking cars.”
Initially, these occurrences were tied to a larger anti-globalization movement, but in the years following, Eugene began to function as a hub for a broader range of anarchist activity.
A number of small, independent anarchist publications were produced and distributed in and around the area. A newsletter called “Break The Chains” focused on political prisoner support as well as critiques of the prison system. Another publication, “Disorderly Conduct,” featured general anarchist news, essays and information — along with its slogan, “Fuck the civil, let’s get disobedient!”
In the Whitaker district, Zerzan was airing a talk radio show on the pirate radio station Radio Free Cascadia. “It was kind of a lot different,” Zerzan said, speaking of the content on his early broadcasts. Since nobody could call in on pirate radio, Zerzan mostly read from his favorite texts and highlighted anarchist news stories.
RFC was eventually raided and shut down by the police, but Zerzan evolved his show into the still-running Anarchy Radio on KWVA, which broadcasts every Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Zerzan now acts as one of the most prominent voices in anarcho-primitivism or green anarchy, a subset of anarchist thought that focuses on environmentalism and deindustrialization. The philosophy critiques both civilization and technology.
Some of these ideas also gained national attention in the 1990s after the arrest and conviction of Ted Kaczynski — otherwise known as the Unabomber — who killed three people and injured many others during a bombing campaign that ran from 1978-1995.
Before his arrest, Kaczynski had written “The Industrial Society and Its Future,” an essay criticizing technology and industrialization as a detriment to society and human freedom. Zerzan thinks the Unabomber and this essay had at least some influence on later anarchist protests in Eugene.
Zerzan himself visited Kaczynski before his 1998 conviction. “I could see that we have the same ideas,” Zerzan said. He made sure, however, to differentiate his methods: “Not the same tactical approach, to put something in mail that might blow up some secretary or mail carrier or whatever — that ain’t right.”
Zerzan has kept his radio show going since 2001, now having broadcast over 800 episodes. He is also an editor of “Black and Green Review,” an anarcho-primitivist magazine currently in its fifth issue. The magazine’s main goal is to “deepen the anarcho-primitivist and green anarchist critiques through open discussion and debate.”
Despite Zerzan’s lasting relevance, he remains one of the few vestiges of Eugene’s once bustling and highly-visible anarchist community.
He admits that the anarchist scene in Eugene has certainly died down.
“By  the whole thing was done,” he said. “It was just back to normal, quiet Eugene — and I love Eugene, but the anarchist scene… everybody had headed for the hills.”
Former mayor Torrey also admits to this shift, but recognizes the ways in which a Eugene anarchist culture still exists: “It isn’t nearly as prevalent as it was in the past. I think now [anarchist activities] are more socially-oriented activities.”
And that certainly rings true with the Neighborhood Anarchist Collective, one of the more recent developments within the Eugene anarchist community.
According to NAC’s principles, the collective bases its operation on a vision of social anarchism that emphasizes the ideas of mutual aid, autonomy and community support.
“The problem with our current system is that democracy isn’t real in it,” said Serra Joy, who helped found NAC just last year. “If everybody actually has a voice and actually gets to participate in that system, then that is direct democracy. That is anarchism in the sense that I see it — social anarchism.”
Joy did not always identify as an anarchist. In fact, she only recently became involved with it after a series of events caused her to lose faith in the country’s current political system.
“Bernie [Sanders] came along… and Bernie went as it did,” Joy said. “Before that, I could tell myself that we just need the right person, we just need enough people, but even having the right person and the right people and the right party, it still didn’t work.”
For Joy, the emphasis that social anarchism places on community is what gives her hope outside of a difficult political system. “If you can’t affect democracy, if you can’t vote for a change on the grand scale, then we have to just look more local,” she said. “Ever since I’ve done that, I feel more empowered.”
Part of NAC’s goal is to reconnect with the strong anarchist culture of Eugene’s past. “We were aware of that and we feel like we want to help that culture revive,” Joy said. “We want to help empower people, to see the power that they have within themselves and their friend group.”
One way NAC attempts to achieve that goal is through a monthly event called the Share Fair. “We generally gather a bunch of resources and support from organizations and create a space for people to come and receive those resources and find community connection,” Joy said. The event makes things such as medical care, haircuts, emotional support, food and clothes available to the community, all free of charge.
The Share Fair has seen over 100 people in attendance at each event over the course of its six month existence. “It’s a lot of fun and I feel like for me that’s the best project that’s come out of the Neighborhood Anarchist Collective,” Joy said.
In addition to the Share Fair, NAC organizes educational opportunities such as film screenings and radical reading clubs, as well as letter writing events to support political prisoners.
For both Joy and Zerzan, these anarchist ideas are still very much relevant and are necessary in order to regain a sense of community.
“Community is gone,” Zerzan said. “It’s been swallowed by mass society, so everybody wants it… but no, you don’t get that.” For this reason, Zerzan even says that society is likely due for another uprising.
Whether or not that’s true, it is clear that anarchist thought still holds its place within Eugene.
“It’s amazing how many people are really interested in the core, fundamental values of the anarchistic theory that we engage in,” Joy said. “My hopes with anarchism in general is that its helping people find that community that we desperately need.”
Tags: john zerzaneugeneMSMcategory: Essays
Prison seeks to isolate our friends behind walls both physical and psychological. Separated from loved ones, anarchist prisoners are removed from the daily dialogue and exchange of ideas that give birth to liberatory projects and experiments. Imprisoned anarchists will find very little in prison libraries and network television to keep them informed on outside struggles, and, in absence of comrades on the outside mailing in magazines and books, they are left without access to subversive literature of any kind.
Since 2014, Bloomington Anarchist Black Cross has been sending monthly packages of literature to a handful of anarchist prisoners in the United States. These generally feature recently-published anarchist periodicals and zines, historical texts, and articles on current events. In addition, we send packages of books every other month. The project has fostered dialogue on current struggles, enabled US anarchist prisoners to express solidarity to anarchist prisoners around the world, and led to sharing of anarchist literature throughout the prisons where our friends are held captive.
While we have been happy to quietly work on this initiative without publicizing our efforts, we would like to expand its capacity. While we are able to print zines, we lack the funds to regularly purchase quality anarchist books for our imprisoned friends.
If you are an anarchist publisher who feels affinity with this project and would like to send us books for distribution to anarchist prisoners, please email us at bloomingtonanarchistblackcross [at] riseup dot net.
We are in this for the long-haul, and appreciate the help.
with toner in our DNA,
Bloomington Anarchist Black Cross
From Little Black Cart
Welcome to the quarterly newsletter of Little Black Cart. We distribute anarchist anti-political books, pamphlets, and newspapers. This quarter we have a few new small books (including a classic reprint) and a large memorial collection from our friend and comrade Paul Z Simons.
We also are growing our selection of ephemera with a new T-Shirt, a new Black Seed, and some shifting plans about how we do what we do. We want to inflict anarchy upon the world and want to apply energy toward these aims, with you, and to ignore the dumb shit and the haters.New Titles A Full and Fighting Heart
Paul Simons was one of our favorite people. This memorial to Paul Z Simons begins with four remembrances, ours; a piece by his eldest daughter, Nina; one by his partner at the time of his death, Lili, and finally a political genealogy by Jason McQuinn, long-term partner and publisher with Paul, through CAL Press.
This selection of texts by Paul is nowhere near comprehensive. It includes all his major work after Black Eye including writing in Anarchy: A journal of desire armed, Modern Slavery, his writing as El Errante and his various essays critical and triumphant.
Most of the texts in this collection are also available at the URL https://theanarchistlibrary.org/category/author/paul-z-simons. We miss Paul now and always, authentic bridges are few and far, and his enthusiasm (with its obligatory opposite, deep sadness) and commitment to ideas and people and learning, are far too rare
For more information - A Full and Fighting Heart: Writings by Paul Z Simons
The Manifesto of the Happily Unemployed
A booklet by Guillaume Paoli (and a group of unnamed others), who also wrote Demotivational Training, and who has been thinking and writing about work for decades, in France, London, and Germany.
This manifesto has been around in German for years, and made a big splash among people, which got even bigger when it was falsely reported as being "a movement of 150,000 members." Paoli is charming, and charmingly modest, and this is, like Demotivational, a worthy addition to the books that challenge the primacy of work-to-survive/work-to-thrive, a challenge that only get sharper in these days of much conversation and experimentation with UBI.
For more information - The Manifesto of the Happily Unemployed
The Right to be Greedy
This book was originally written in 1974 by For Ourselves, a Bay Area post-situationist group at the time. From Bob Black's preface from the Loompanics edition...
Egoism in its narrowest sense is a tautology, not a tactic. Adolescents of all ages who triumphantly trumpet that "everyone is selfish," as if they’d made a factual discovery about the world, only show that they literally don’t know what they’re talking about. Practical egoism must be something more, it must tell the egoist something useful about himself and other selves which will make a difference in his life (and, as it happens, theirs). My want, needs, desires, whims – call them what you will – extend the ego, which is my-self purposively acting, out where the other selves await me. If I deal with them, as the economists say, "at arm’s length," I can’t get as close as I need to for so much of what I want. At any rate, no "spook," no ideology is going to get in my way. Do you have ideas, or do ideas have you?
For more information - The Right to be Greedy
Black Seed #6
One of the reasons we do what we do is to have the capacity to fund projects that we want to see happen and wouldn't be possible other wise. Black Seed is a Green Anarchist publication. This is the second issue under the new, second collective group. This issue we are attempting to argue more for the kind of anarchism we'd like to see and do less of the back-and-forth bickering that has been filling too much of anarchyland since the Internet.
Fuck the Internet even though it's the main way we find you (and you find us).
Recent LBC Titles & Distro Items
From the translator's introduction:
I made this translation for those who rebel against all that is held sacred, against every society, every collectivity, every ideology, every abstraction that various authorities, institutions, or even other individuals try to impose on them as a "higher power," for those who know how to loot from a book like this, to take from it those conceptual tools and weapons that they can use in their own defiant, laughing, mocking self-creation, to rise up above and against the impositions of the mass. In other words I did this translation for those who know how to treat a book not as a sacred text to either be followed or hermeneutically dissected, but as an armory or a toolbox from which to take whatever will aid them in creating their lives, their enjoyments
This new version of Wolfi's translation includes an index and a gorgeous cover that refutes expectations.
- Corrosive Consciousness - A blistering attack against the ideology of Anarcho-Primitivism
- Relations Without End - Animism
- In Search of the Masterless Men of Newfoundland - Is escaping civilization possible?
- BASTARD Chronicles 2017 - Evil. Pro or Con?
- /Atassa #2 - The controversy continues. To what end?
- Brethren of the Coast - Pirates of Somalia
- Last Act of the Circus Animals - Sean Swain, Travis Washington, Anarchist Animal Farm
- Toward an Army of Ghosts
- The second volume by Tom Nom@d on insurgent strategy
- Anarchist Speculations - The writings of John Moore
Introducing the new LBC t-shirt. Enjoy!
Want to help?
More information? New LBC T-Shirt
Are you in the Bay Area and would you like to help make LBC projects happen?
Drop us a line.
Send manuscript proposals to us at info@lbcBecome an Intern
In a program that we're really happy with, LBC hosts a new intern every three months. If you are interested in becoming a close friend with LBC and being exposed to the ideas and personalities around the project and our environs, if you've been wanting time and encouragement to work on or start that awesome anarchist project you've had in mind, feel free to reach out to us at our email address for more information. We are currently looking for interns for the whole of 2019!!!
Politics is the enemy of anarchy, and it knows it.Tags: pzslbcsocietyright to be greedyhappily unemployedcategory: Projects
Though Bellamy spends a portion of his introductory essay to Backwoods criticizing insurrectionary anarchism, there exists at least one point of similarity between the anti-civ project he puts forward and the object of his critique: skillbuilding.
One of the major problems he observes with civilization is the way it deprives people living within it of the skills to live without it, which in turn alienates us from the world in which we live. Contrasted with this is the concept of autarky, or “the knowledge and practice of providing one's subsistence - again, food, water, shelter, fuel, and medicine - for and by oneself in an unalienated relationship with one's habitat and in voluntary cooperation with others with whom one freely associates”, which would entail “...a profound reskilling, a regaining of the venerable and valuable skills of foraging, tending, tracking, hunting, fishing, preserving, woodworking, herbalism, and others”.
Compare this with the veritable laundry list of skills to learn and things to do put forward in the insurrectionary manual “How to Start a Fire”:
Get property. Pirate radio. Build stoves. Learn to cook. Learn Languages. Get arms. Open street carts and businesses. Occupy buildings. Set up cafes. Diners. Restaurants. Pizza shops. Book stores. Permaculture. Mend wounds. Lathes. Giant pots. Orchards. Build friendships. Acquire film equipment and make documentaries. Talk to old comrades. Learn martial arts, Read. Travel. Learn from each other. Write newspapers. Weather the hard times. Loot. Hold regional gatherings. Write internal journals. Refine the art of sabotage. Distribute counter-information. Offset presses. Raw materials and the means of production. Three thousand camping bowls. Survival packs. Organic seeds. Share thoughts, feelings, and practice. Learn history and learn from history. Build tables. Make art. Go to the woods. Summer retreats. Dance parties. Get cars. Steal money. Move close to each other. Start uncontrollable riots.
All of this and more is to be acquired and used in the fight against our collapsing civilization and for creating “a life actually worth living”. For them, our lack of skills is framed as disarming us weapons we need fight and create other ways of living. While Bellamy’s proposal for desertion and Anonymous’s proposal for getting organized in a global conflict are at odds in some ways, they both point to a lack of skills as an impediment to anarchist projects and their acquisition as crucial to creating an alternative.
Do you think the concept of acquiring skills is important as anarchist praxis? If so, why? And what kind of skills? If not, why?Tags: totwtopic of the weekskillscategory: Other
via 325Two publications about anarchism in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia
Two new publications in English. “The Russian government, like any authoritarian regime, can not exist without the image of the enemy, external or internal. But people since Soviet times have got used to an eternal “threat of the West” and its spies. Therefore, the society is increasingly being pushed onto the needle of brutal massacre of ” public enemy forces”. For this purpose, the topic of extremism is actively promoted and new “enemies” are being stamped out.”RussiaUkraineBelaruscategory: Projects
Here at Agency we spend a lot of time focused on the mainstream media – how we can support anarchists engaging with it, and how we can promote anarchism through it. But we also desire to support the great work of those producing anarchist media, including our friends at the Channel Zero Anarchist Podcast Network.
Channel Zero has a constantly updated feed of podcasts covering a wide range of issues important to anarchists, and we highly recommend spending some time exploring all there is to offer. As a start we would like to share with you our top picks from the Channel Zero feed over the past month. From now on we will be sharing our recommendations with you every month!
Solecast: Anarchist Movement Building With Its Going Down (June 14)
This episode of Solecast features an interview with It’s Going Down, who just launched a new anarchist news podcast called “This is America,” a short every-other-day digest of anarchist analysis and activity. This is an exciting new anarchist news project! Towards the end of the podcast there is also a brief discussion about media and ideology.
The bulk of the episode also includes a wide ranging discussion about what anarchist & anti-authoritarian resistance has looked like under Trump and potential paths for the future.
subMedia: Trouble #14: Fighting Where We Stand (July 1)
Can be watched as a video or downloaded as a podcast.
subMedia have been releasing a new episode of their fantastic series Trouble every month. July’s episode showcases three ongoing land defence struggles: the Unist’ot’en Camp, located on the unceded Wet’suwet’en territories of so-called “British Columbia”; the autonomous spaces movement in Ljubljana, Slovenia and the eco-defence occupation known as La ZAD, in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, France.
We highly recommend keep an eye open for new episodes of Trouble, which can be either watched as a video or listened to in podcast format.
This Is America #16 (IGD): #OccupyICE Explodes, Bloody Portland (July 2)
This is the great new anarchist news podcast from It’s Going Down that is discussed in the Solecast podcast we mentioned above. Episode #16 takes a look at the ICE office occupations as they started expanding across the US. It includes interviews with folks on the ground at ICE blockades and organizing efforts in Louisville and Philadelphia. It is seriously inspiring listening to stories of many different grassroots groups working really well together on this issue. #AbolishICE movement building is continuing despite blockade evictions happening in many cities.
This episode also includes an interview with long time anarchist and anti-border activist Jaggi Singh in Montreal, with discussions about the anti-immigration “Wolf Pack” and other far-right groups in the area.
The Final Straw: End Prison Slavery: National Prison Strike 2018, Aug 21st- Sept 9 (July 8)
This episode of The Final Straw features two conversations, both focusing on the upcoming Prisoner Strike from August 21st to September 9th. One with a member of IWOC and one with a Amani Sawari, a media liaison for some of the prisoners who called for the strike.
There is also a J20 case update, with news about the remaining 38 J20 defendants having their charges dropped recently without prejudice! Despite the great deal of stress caused to people who were targeted, and their loved ones, the organizing around supporting the J20 defendants has been an inspiring show of solidarity.
We hope you enjoy these podcasts from Channel Zero. Watch out for Agency’s recommendations next month and support anarchist media!Tags: podcastchannel zerocategory: Projects
via Freedom News
A member of the Anarchist Communist Group writes on the limitations of engaging in struggle through long-professionalised institutional structures dependent on university funding.
Institutions exist to do the exact opposite of their stated aims. The police force don’t exist to protect you and stop crime, but instead to keep you in line and to facilitate a unilaterial class war.
Schools don’t exist to educate people and teach them how to think independently, but rather to indoctrinate and create obedient workers.
Governments don’t exist to enact the political will of the people but to frustrate it.
The same is true of student unions. A few months back, there was a wave of student activism, with hundreds of students across the country occupying in solidarity with academics whose pensions were being obliterated. These actions, and many others like them, are great. They lead to the radicalisation of those involved and widen the terms of political debate on campuses – for example Leicester University’s student occupation was calling for senior leaders of the University to be elected rather than appointed.
But this isn’t the first time we have seen this happen. Every now and then the student movement starts to take actions, these actions start to gain speed, but then suddenly die out. When I was at university the government was passing legislation to treble tuition fees, and students attacked the buildings of political parties in London and made a move on parliament, but then these movements died out.
They died out for several reasons, but one of them is because students engaged with their students’ unions. SUs are neither unions, nor are they made up of students. In fact, they have a fundamentally different set of motivations and priorities to the ‘student movement’ and student body which they claim to represent.
Student unions are a problem in a series of different ways. First of all, they direct the energies of some of the most active students (and also some of the most despicable) into electioneering. A handful of students each year become paid elected representatives of the student body. These students are led to believe that once elected they will be the recognised legitimate voice of students (they won’t and they aren’t) and that they will be in control of the Student Union and its institutional power (they won’t be and it doesn’t have any). This wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself, if it wasn’t for that fact that the process of gaining and maintaining elected office takes a number of students who could be challenging pre-existing figures of authority, and leads them to imitate them instead.
The second way in which student unions are a problem is that they claim to be the legitmate voice of students. How can a handful of elected students represent an entire student body? And would they if they could?
Student unions can claim to make representative decisions without ever consulting the student body, or they can consult it to death. What should the graduate office be called? How many representative roles should a student be able to undertake at one time? Should we change article 7 of the code of conducts for international volunteers working in Sainsbury? As a result, students disengage.
In these ways, the Student Union becomes a proxy for student opinion that can be slapped on to decisions as a method of legitimation, often without a single student being meaningfully involved. This, in turn, kills any radicalism within the student movement because it’s hard to campaign against a decision which your representative body has already legitimised – and it’s impossible to make meaningful change at your institution if you have to formally change the position of your SU before even starting on the university.
And a final problem with student unions is that they last a long time. SUs have a separate set of institutional interests to the student body as a whole, as SUs receive large sums of (originally student) money from the university, and are dependent on the university allowing them access to key personnel and meetings to make change. Therefore SUs will always delay challenging the university in the hope of maintaining relationships with the university so change can be made at some later (unspecified) date, and the large number of SU staff (full time paid people who aren’t students) can continue to pull their salaries in the meantime. Most students are at university for three years, but SUs put off challenging the university indefinitely.
What does all this mean for the student movement? For individual students it means avoid SUs like the plague and be aware that they replicate and perpetuate power structures that exist across society as a whole.
For the student movement, it must be realised that reforming student unions is a pipe dream and that any meaningful actions will have to be protected from the student union.
This article first appeared on the ACG websiteTags: Englandstudent unioncategory: Essays
One month in, the encampment at the Northwest Detention Center immigration prison in Tacoma continues. While it has been much lower profile than #occupyicepdx, it is the site of the largest immigration prison on the west coast. Prisoners inside have repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and other forms of resistance over the years.
Every night at 9pm is a rowdy noise demo. On Friday nights at 9:30 is a vigil.
The NWDC is run by the GEO Group, a multinational private prison corporation. Their transport buses are parked across the street from the prison inside a chain-link fence. On multiple occasions people have blocked deportation buses. Last night’s vigil turned into an impromptu hard blockade – fencing was torn down and piled in front of the gate that prisoners are transported in and out of, cones and signs were placed in the driveway that the guards use, and a hard blockade of pallets, railroad ties, fencing, and signs was erected in the street.
If you have experience with blockades and occupations, if you hate the concentration camp and its world, if you don’t want imaginary lines called borders, come to Tacoma. The encampment needs your energy. Don’t overlook this strategic chokepoint.
Check out @occupyicenwdc on Twitter for updates from camp!tacomaWashingtonoccupy icecategory: Actions
Welcome to the Anews podcast. This is episode 74 for July 27, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
TOTW: Anarchy and Escapism
This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
* sound edited by Linn O’Mable
* no editorial this week
*what’s new was written by jackie and read by chisel and a friend
* Thanks to Aragorn! and friend for topic of the week discussion
* The music is
* Contact us at email@example.com
Welcome to volume #4, issue #3 of ATUBES: Digest of the Anarchist Tubes; for the month of July 2018.
This month we're taking a closer look at a bunch of comments published by users of the website. Enclosed as a PDF, [Letter and A4 compatible,as well as an imposed PDF* of Letter and A4 compatibility] - the July Digest of the Anarchist Tubes.
" the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes."
volume #4, issue #3
We've included 8 pages worth of randomly selected comments from the site this past month. Each comment has a note and link to the article it was derived from. Dig deeper. - some ATUBES editor
* music while compiling:https://youtu.be/H3oebT7jHXM [Tunacola - El viento que nos lleva a los dos]
a very stong hug,
teh editor of ¯\_(ATUBES)_/¯
* Note about printing the imposed PDF: Pages are reordered, in one or more groups (signatures), then folded in half. If you have more signatures, you will have to bound them together like a book. With this option, you may want to decide the size of the signatures. This can be a fixed value (4,8,16, etc.), the whole book in a single signature, or an optimized size to reduce the number of blank pages.Tags: ATUBEScommentssillinesszinecategory: Projects
From The Final Straw Radio, Part I
This week’s episode is part one of two (keep an eye out for part two in the future). Most of this show post is notes about repression updates, calls to take part in demonstrations and to support repressed prisoners. YAY!Donald Rooum
This week, we invite you to listen in on the first part of a conversation we had with 90 year old anarchist, cartoonist and author, Donald Rooum. Donald was born 1928 in Bradford, UK. Donald is most known for his longtime illustration of the wiley, bomb-throwing, firebrand anarchist cartoon character, Wildcat. In this episode, Donald talks about his early political trajectory and development from childhood involvement during World War II in a Communist Party front group into anarchism via the speakers corner in Hyde Park. Donald talks about the Malatesta Anarchist Club, his artistic development and love of cartooning and engagement with activism to stop corporal punishment in schools in the U.K. and ideas about social change and anarchist intervention.
Some notes from the conversation (followed by announcements):Donald was published in:
Peace News website and wikipedia page
Freedom (newspaper) website + wikipedia + Donald’s
history of Freedom
Freedom Press website and wikipedia page
Donald’s Intro to Anarchism on anarchistlibrary
Donald’s “The Ethics of Egoism” on anarchistlibrary
Some low-quality images of Donald’s at Spunk.Org
Philip Sansome (UK anarchist) wikipedia
Vernon Richards (UK anarchist) wikipedia
Article from 1945 reprinted on shutting of the War
Commentary / Freedom Paper
Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu (Zanzibari Revolutionary
Colin Ward (UK anarchist) wikipedia
works by Colin Ward at anarchistlibrary
David Hockney (artist) wikipedia
Nicholas Walter (anarchist + atheist) wikipedia
Benjamin Tucker (American anarchist) wikipedia
Works by Benjamin Tucker at anarchistlibrary
Ken Reid (British cartoonist) wikipedia
STOPP in wikipediaAnnouncements: Sean Swain
“Sean Swain, a long-term anarchist prisoner in Ohio, has come under fire by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The ODRC has increased Sean’s security level from 3 to 5b, an increase that has sent him to solitary confinement, led to him being handcuffed during visits, and further removed him from any possibility for parole. Additionally, the ODRC is threatening to put Sean on interstate compact, a system that ships subversive prisoners around the country, places heavy restrictions on communication, and interns them in the black hole of the interstate compact system. We’re calling for any who feel compelled by Sean’s plight to call ODRC director Gary Mohr and demand that Sean’s appeal to the current disciplinary hearing be granted and that Sean’s security level be lowered. (A script for the call can be found below.)
Thank you all. Your solidarity means so much.
some friends of Sean Swain”
“I am calling on behalf of Sean Swain, inmate #243-205. I am a friend of Sean. I am calling to request the ODRC grant Mr. Swain’s appeal regarding his most recent disciplinary record, drop the charges, and lower his security level from 5b to 2. Mr. Swain is not a physical security risk, and there is no reason to keep him at such a high security rating where he will be unable to get the programming he needs to be eligible for rehabilitation and parole. Thank you for your consideration.”In prisoner news, we’d like to start off with a little bit of positivity:
Nicole Kissane, indicted in 2015 for conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act via releasing thousands of animals from fur farms and destroying breeding records in Idaho, Montana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, was released after 21 months in federal prison. She still has 3 years of supervised release, but she’s out from behind the actual bars. Welcome home, Nicole!In local concerns:
If you’re in the Asheville area next weekend, August 3-5, consider Pansy Fest II, a DIY queer/trans music and art festival. The fun starts at 2pm on Friday the 3rd at the Mothlight with a full-ticket of bands and ending out with a dance party til 2am. The weekend includes workshops at Firestorm Books & Coffee with more shows & after parties. Proceeds will go to support the Trans Kindred Fund & Tranzmission Prison Project. More info on their fedbook, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.orgAnd now a few updates from the world of anti-fascist street presence:
First, coming up fast in early August, fascist and proto-fascist groups are trying to build up some steam for the one year anniversary of the Unite The Right rally on August 12th. The Islamophobic and Western Chauvinist groups Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys are calling for a demonstration and plan to amass a large and likely violent mob in Portland, OR, on August 4th. Antiracists are organizing under #AllOutPDX & #StopTheHate. So a coalition called PopMob, or popular mobilization, is organizing a broad event on August 4th at 10:30 at PDX city hall and then moving at 11:30 to join the larger event at Chapman Square. You can find more information by checking itsgoingdown.org, or finding the events on fedbook called “Stop The Hate” and “Resist Patriot Prayer”. The latter is being called by Eugene Antifa & other groups and will meet up at 11:30 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Then a week later on the east coast of the so-called U.S. on August 12th there is a call for an Antifascist/Abolitionist Bloc to join the resistance to the far right’s call for the Unite The Right 2 at a time and place to be announced on the site ShutItDownDC.org and news can be found under the tag #DefendDC & #AllOutDC.Mumia
On August 30th in Philadelphia, PA at 13th and Filbert there will be a rally during the hearing of imprisoned journalist, intellectual and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal. From 8am til 11am people are asked to show up in support of this man who has spent nearly 40 years in prison, 30 of it in solitary on death row, for a political show trial for the killing of a cop many believe he didn’t commit. Whether he did or didn’t, Mumia was obviously railroaded for his political beliefs and his reporting critical of the Philly PD & the administration of Frank Rizzo. More on the event, including the nature of the current legal motion, can be found on fedbook.#August21 Repression Starts
People are pushing back. For starters:Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan
There is a phone zap in support of Lucasville Uprising prisoner and death row inmate, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a voice you’ve heard on this show before. Hasan, a member of the Free Ohio Movement and outspoken activist behind bars for peoples dignity, is believed to be suffering similar repression as he did in the run up to the 2016 National Prison Strike. He has been transfered into the hole, likely as a way to shut him up. There is a phone zap called by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee on Monday, July 30th between 9am and 5pm central time. Details forthcoming on the fedbook event.Kevin “Rashid” Johnson
Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, a leader of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP) and member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), whose organizing was discussed in DHS/FBI fusion center “terrorism threat assessment” publications as far back as 2009 (page 50) is being kept in solitary confinement after being given an “inciting a riot” charge for writing an article about the Operation PUSH strikes in Florida, and has faced punitive transfer after transfer.;Keith “Comrade Malik” Washington
Keith “Malik” Washington, a Texas inmate who is also involved with the NABPP and IWOC, has spent the past two years in ad-seg (solitary confinement) on a bogus riot charge connected to his involvement in the 2016 prison strike. He was due to be released from ad-seg, but then had his clearance abruptly revoked and was sent back to solitary on the grounds that the classifications committee had “received additional information” from the Fusion Center in Texas. He has also had issues with medical information about his health issues mysteriously disappearing, leading to the administration putting him in dangerous situations, and is currently being held in an extremely hot and humid punishment cell that he describes as being like “a living hell” and causing headaches, nosebleeds and dizziness.;Jason Renard Walker
Meanwhile, Jason Renard Walker, another Texas inmate involved with the NABPP and the 2016 strikes, and a contributor to the Fire Inside zine, has managed to get released from solitary, but faces constant threats and harassment from staff, including threats to send him back to solitary on bogus charges for things as simple as asking for water and medical attention, and trying to get back into his own cell so he can use a fan to cool down.
Both Malik and Jason have reported having their mail tampered with, and the explicitly political nature of this censorship was made clear in a conversation with a prison official who told Jason that any writing containing the words “black panther” would be treated as gang material.
Supporting the prison strike means monitoring and opposing the repressive methods that the prison system uses to try and break it, and paying attention to the treatment of 2016 strike organizers like Rashid, Malik, Jason and others can indicate the tactics that are likely to be used more widely in the weeks to come.Numbers and scripts to call in with for Malik’s situation:
Malik has specifically requested a call-in campaign urging Texas legislators to investigate the conditions at the McConnell Unit. Below are some details of Texas legislators and TDCJ officials, along with a suggested script you can use:
John Whitmire, chair of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee –
email@example.com (713) 864-5287 (fax)
Sylvia Garcia, member of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee –
firstname.lastname@example.org (512) 463-0346 (fax)
José Menéndez, member of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee –
Alma.Allen@house.state.tx.us or (512) 463-0761 (fax)
Ryan K Patrick, US Attorney – (713)-567-9000
Billy Hirsch, TDCJ Deputy Director – Billy.Hirsch@tdcj.texas.gov
Miguel Martinez, Regional Director with responsibility for the McConnell
Patricia Chapa, Assistant Regional Director – Patricia.Chapa@tdcj.texas.gov
Emil Garza, Assistant Regional Director – Emil.Garza@tdcj.texas.gov
Garth Parker, Telford Unit Warden – (903) 628-3171
Billy Howard, Assistant Regional Director with responsibility for the Telford Unit – email@example.com
Carl McKellar, Assistant Regional Director with responsibility for the Telford Unit – firstname.lastname@example.org
“Hello, my name is —-, and I am contacting you about conditions in the prisons run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
I demand that the dangerous conditions of extreme heat and humidity that are widespread in units such as the McConnell and Telford Units are fully investigated and rectified immediately. I further request that immediate heat relief measures are put in place, as this is especially urgent for prisoners with health issues.
The prison administration needs to stop the retaliation and harassment of whistleblowers such as Keith Washington (TDCJ 1487958) and Jason Walker (TDCJ 1532092). This retaliation includes, but is not limited to, unjustified use of solitary confinement as a punishment for constitutionally protected speech, denial of parole applications, and direct threats of harm. Please be aware that the State of Texas and the TDCJ may be held legally responsible for any harm suffered by these or any other inmates as a result of the administration’s negligence or punitive actions.
The practice of giving guards quotas of disciplinary reports to meet must also be stopped at once, as this leads to the generation of false or trivial reports as a way of meeting quotas.
In closing, I also wish to state my support for the demands of the ongoing prison strike movement.
Other ways to help Malik:
1. *Finding legal representation*
Malik has stated that he urgently needs professional legal help in challenging the various forms of harassment he has been subjected to, particularly the interference with his mail. If you know of any sympathetic lawyers or other legal-minded folk who might be able to help, please contact them and ask if they could take the case on.
2. *Write to the comrades!*
Every letter they receive lifts their spirit and protects them, because it lets prison officials know they have people around them, watching for what happens to them. It should also be possible to contact them via jpay.com if you prefer.
Keith H. Washington, #1487958
3100 South Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78103
Jason Renard Walker, #1532092
3899 Hwy 98
New Boston, TX 75570
Kevin Johnson, #1007485
Sussex 1 State Prison
24414 Musselwhite Dr.
Waverly, VA 23891
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From CrimethInc.With Remarks by Malatesta and Tolstoy
On this day, July 29, in the year 1900, the anarchist Gaetano Bresci assassinated King Umberto of Italy. But there is a lot more to his story than this single deed. Here, we remember an Italian worker and immigrant who risked his life to save Errico Malatesta from an assassination attempt, then gave his life to impose consequences on the king for overseeing the murder of hundreds of poor working people.
“I’m sure I was not wrong to do what I did. I do not even intend to appeal. I appeal only to the next proletarian revolution.”
-Gaetano Bresci, interrogation
At the end of the 19th century, rising food prices provoked fierce struggles throughout Italy. On May 6, 1898, thousands of workers and their families traveled to Milan, looting bakeries and marching on the royal palace. Troops fired cannons and rifles at the crowd, killing 300 people and wounding up to a thousand more. In the subsequent crackdown, the government closed the universities of Rome, Naples, Padua and Bologna, outlawed 110 newspapers, and arrested thousands. This kind of violence and oppression drove many Italians to flee the country—and to adopt radical politics.
The New York Times, May 9, 1898.
A year later, on the night of May 9, 1899, Errico Malatesta, protégé of Mikhail Bakunin and longtime anarchist organizer, escaped from the island of Lampedusa to which he had been sentenced to penal confinement. (Lampedusa recently reentered the headlines as a destination for migrants attempting to reach Europe without documents.) He swam out to a fishing boat and sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Malta. From there, he crossed the Atlantic to Paterson, New Jersey, where he was to edit the Italian émigré anarchist journal La Questione Sociale.
While Malatesta was addressing a meeting in West Hoboken, New Jersey, a would-be assassin rose from the crowd and raised a pistol to fire at him. An unarmed man in the audience threw himself upon the assailant so that the shot only grazed Malatesta’s leg. At great risk to himself, the unarmed man wrestled the gunman to the ground and disarmed him. Malatesta declined to press charges against the his would-be assassin, just as his contemporaries, the anarchists Louise Michel and Voltairine de Cleyre, refused to use the state to prosecute the men who attempted to murder them.
Who was the man who had risked his life to save Malatesta? His name was Gaetano Bresci.
Born near Florence in 1869, Bresci took an apprenticeship become a weaver at the age of 11. He adopted anarchist politics while still a teenager. In 1892, he was sentenced to 15 days in prison for insulting guards who were fining a baker for keeping his shop open late. In 1895, he too was exiled to the island of Lampedusa on account of labor organizing activity. After his release, he fathered a child with a partner named Maria. Finding it difficult to secure employment, Bresci gave her money to care for their child and set out for the United States in search of better prospects, arriving in New York on January 29, 1898. In Hoboken, he married an Irish immigrant—Sophie Knieland, with whom he had two daughters, Maddalena and Gaetanina—and moved to Paterson, New Jersey to work in a mill.
As Emma Goldman recounts in her autobiography, Living My Life,
Gaetano Bresci was one of the founders of La Questione Sociale, the Italian anarchist paper published in Paterson. He was a skillful weaver, considered by his employers a sober, hard-working man, but his pay averaged only fifteen dollars a week. He had a wife and child to support; yet he managed to donate weekly contributions to the paper. He had even saved a hundred and fifty dollars, which he lent to the group at a critical period of La Questione Sociale. His free evenings and Sundays he used to spend in helping with the office work and in propaganda. He was beloved and respected for his devotion by all the members of his group.
In the words of Bresci’s comrades of La Questione Sociale, reported in the New York Times,
“He was a quiet man. He never drank or smoked and did not go about. He was always quiet and never made any trouble. Yes, and he liked music. He used to teach it.”
His foreman at the mill echoed this description, calling him “a good workman and a man who had never made any trouble.”
Yet Bresci did not rest easy in the United States. The violence in his homeland gnawed at him. The Italian monarch, King Umberto, had decorated the general who gave the order to fire on demonstrators in Milan, proclaiming that he had “rendered a great service to the king and to the country.” Bresci resolved to return to Italy.
Emma Goldman continues the story:
One day Bresci had unexpectedly asked that his loan to the paper be returned. He was informed that it was impossible; the paper had no funds and had, in fact, a deficit. But Bresci insisted and even refused to offer any explanation for his demand. Finally the group succeeded in securing enough money to pay back the debt to Bresci. But the Italian comrades bitterly resented Bresci’s behavior, branding him as a miser who loved money above his ideal. Most of his friends even ostracized him.
Bresci’s personal effects, displayed at the MUCRI, the Museo Criminologico, in Rome.
On May 17, 1900, Bresci embarked on the French steamer Guascogne to return to Italy. He was carrying $200, a camera, and a five-shot pistol he had purchased in Paterson. In the city of Prato, he practiced his marksmanship by setting wine flasks on the ground and attempting to hit them so precisely that his bullet would enter through the neck of the bottle and only strike the glass bottom. He visited his sister’s village, then made his way to the countryside north of Milan where King Umberto was taking his holidays at the Villa Reale di Monza.
Sunday, July 29, 1900 was an especially hot day; a thermometer in Milan reached 38.2 degrees celsius. A dozen miles to the northeast, Bresci helped himself to five servings of ice cream in the Caffè del Vapore. That evening, King Umberto attended an athletic contest, followed by an awards ceremony at the sports club ““Forti e Liberi.” Shortly after 10 pm, as the sovereign was returning to his palace in a two-horse sedan, Bresci stepped out of the crowd and drew his pistol. Three shots hit King Umberto in the shoulder, lung, and heart. His deed accomplished, Bresci permitted the Carabinieri to take him into custody. “I have not shot Umberto,” he maintained. “I have killed a king, I have killed a principle.”
Emma Goldman recalls:
A few weeks later came the news that Gaetano Bresci had killed King Umberto. His act brought home to the Paterson group the realization of how cruelly they had wronged the man. He had insisted on the return of his money in order to secure the fare to Italy! No doubt the consciousness of the injustice done Bresci rested heavier on the Italian comrades than his resentment against them. To make amends, in a sense, the Paterson group charged itself with the support of their martyred comrade’s child, a beautiful little girl.
One of Malatesta’s old comrades, the anarchist lawyer Francesco Saverio Merlino, defended Bresci in court. He was sentenced to lifelong penal servitude on Santo Stefano, another island prison off the Italian coast.
“The government resorted to violence and you should not be surprised if the example of violence, coming from above, has caused a reaction from the bottom of society—if there were those who believed there was another need, that is to say, to oppose the violence of the government by means of private violence.”
-Bresci’s lawyer, Francesco Saverio Merlino
Only a few months later, in May 1901, the New York Times reported that he had been found hanged in his cell—almost certainly murdered by the prison guards. According to some accounts, they threw his body into the sea; others maintain he was buried in the cemetery of San Ercolano di S. Stefano.
The word “vengeance” remained etched into the wall of his cell. Bresci had scratched it there with his fingernail.
A cross on what may be Bresci’s grave on the island where he was killed.
We remember Bresci not only as an anarchist who killed a tyrant, but also as the one who saved Malatesta’s life—as a person who repeatedly risked his own life for the sake of others and finally made the ultimate sacrifice in order to ensure that there would be consequences for the slaughter and oppression of the poor. The courage and compassion he displayed in tackling the gunman in West Hoboken was the same courage and compassion that drove him to give his life for the sake of equality and freedom—for the cause of anarchy.
“I attacked the king because in my opinion he is responsible for all the pale and bleeding victims of the system that he represents and has to defend. And as I have said on other occasions, I conceived this design after the bloody repression that took place in Sicily about 7 or 8 years ago following the state of siege established by royal decree in contradiction with the law of the state. And after the additional repression of 1998 occurred, even more numerous and more barbaric, once again following the state of siege established by royal decree, my purpose assumed greater vigor.”
-Gaetano Bresci, interrogation
A memorial to Bresci erected by anarchists at Carrara: “Ministry of rioting—long live anarchy.”
On Your Head that Blood Will Fall by Wu Ming
“Gaetano Bresci: An Anarchist Weaver”—a graphic novel by Santin and Riccomini.
“A rough translation of the full text of “The Tragedy of Monza,” published in 1900.*
First of all, let’s put things in perspective.
The king has been killed; and since a king is still a man, the fact is to be deplored. A queen has been widowed; and since a queen is also a woman, we sympathize with her pain.
But why so much noise for the death of a man and the tears of a woman when it is accepted as a natural thing that every day so many men are killed, and so many women brought to tears, because of wars, accidents at work, the repression of revolts, and a thousand crimes produced by poverty, by the spirit of revenge, by fanaticism and alcoholism? Why such a display of sentimentalism about this particular misfortune, when thousands and millions of human beings die of hunger and malaria amid the indifference of those who have the means to save them?
Perhaps because this time, the victims are not vulgar workers, not a honest man and an honest woman, but a king and a queen?
Actually, we find the case more interesting, and our pain is more felt, more alive, more real, when it comes to a miner crushed by a landslide while working, and a widow who remains to die of hunger with her children!
Nonetheless, even the suffering of the royalty is human suffering and must be deplored. But all this lamenting remains sterile if the causes are not investigated and no attempt is made to eliminate them.
Who is it that causes violence? Who makes it necessary?
The whole existing social system is founded on brute force placed at the service of a small minority that exploits and oppresses the great mass; all the education given to children can be summarized as a sanctification of brute force; the whole environment we inhabit is a continuous example of violence, a continuous exhortation to violence.
The soldier, that is, the professional murderer, is honored, and above all the king is honored, whose historic role is to be chief of soldiers. With brute force, the worker is robbed of the product of his labor; with brute force, weak nations are robbed of their independence. The emperor of Germany incites his soldiers not to give quarter to the Chinese; the British government treats the Boers as rebels who refuse to submit to foreign arrogance and burns their farms, and chases women from their homes, and even persecutes non-combatants, and renews the horrible deeds of Spain in Cuba; the Sultan has the Armenians murdered by the hundreds of thousands; the American government slaughters the Filipinos after having vilely betrayed them. Capitalists send workers to die in mines, on railways, in rice paddies in order to avoid paying the necessary expenses for workplace safety, and they summon soldiers to intimidate and shoot workers who demand improvements in their conditions.
One more time: from whom does the suggestion come, the provocation to violence? Who makes violence appear to be the only way out of the current state of affairs, the only means by which to escape being eternally subjected to the violence of others?
For a world without politicians, vote Gaetano Bresci.
And in Italy it is worse than elsewhere. The people perpetually suffer from hunger; the lords boss people around worse than in the Middle Ages; the government competes with property owners to exploit the workers to enrich themselves and squander the rest in dynastic enterprises; the police are the arbiter of the liberty of the citizens, and every cry of protest, every appeal is strangled by jailers and drowned in blood by soldiers.
The list of massacres is long: from Pietrarsa to Conselica, to Calatabiano, to Sicily, and more. Only two years ago, the royal troops massacred unarmed people; only a few days ago, the royal troops put their bayonets at the service of the property owners of Minella, compelling forced labor from the famished and desperate workers. Who is guilty of the rebellion, who is guilty of the revenge that occasionally results—the provocateur, the offender, or those who denounce the offense and want to eliminate the causes?
But, they say, the king is not responsible!
We certainly do not take the mockery of constitutional fictions seriously. The “liberal” newspapers that now argue about the king’s responsibility, they knew well that above the parliament and the ministers, there was a powerful influence, a “high sphere” to which the royal procurators did not allow clear allusions. And the conservatives, who are now waiting for a “new era” from the energy of the new king, show they know that the king, at least in Italy, is not the puppet that they would have us believe he is when it comes to attributing responsibilities. And besides, even if he does not do evil directly, he is always responsible for it, a man who can prevent it and does not—and the king is the head of the soldiers and can always, at least, prevent soldiers from firing on unarmed populations.
It is true that if we take into account considerations of inheritance, of education, environmental factors, then the personal responsibility of the powerful diminishes and perhaps disappears completely. But then, if the king is not responsible for his actions and omissions, if in spite of oppression, of the massacre of the people done in his name, he should have continued to govern the country, then why should we hold Bresci responsible? Why should the Bresci serve a life sentence of unspeakable suffering for an act that, no matter how much you want to judge it wrong, no one can deny was inspired by altruistic intentions?
But this question of the search for responsibility interests us little. We do not believe in the right to punish, we reject the idea of revenge as barbaric: we do not intend to be executioners or avengers. The mission of liberators and peacemakers seems holier, nobler, more beneficial.
We would willingly offer our hand to the kings, to the oppressors, to the exploiters, if only they wanted to return men among men, equal among the equals. But while they persist in enjoying the present order of things and defending it with force, thus inflicting martyrdom, brutalization, and death by hardship on millions of human beings, then it is a duty for us to oppose their force by force.
To oppose force by force!
Does this mean that we delight in melodramatic plots, or that we are always in the act or intention of stabbing an oppressor? Not at all. We abhor violence by sentiment and by principle, and we always do our best to avoid it: only the need to resist evil by suitable and effective means can move us to resort to violence.
We know that these isolated acts of violence, without sufficient preparation in the people, remain sterile and often provoke reactions that it is not possible to resist, producing misfortunes and hurting the very cause they intend to serve.
We know that the most essential thing, the indisputably useful thing is not to kill the king as a person, but to kill all the kings—those of the courts, the parliaments, and the workshops—that govern people’s hearts and minds; to eradicate faith in the principle of authority that so many people worship.
We know that the less ripe the revolution is, the bloodier and more uncertain. We know that, since violence is the source of authority, since indeed it is basically identical with the principle of authority, the more violent the revolution is the greater the risk will be that it will give rise to new forms of authority. And so we strive to obtain, before using the last reasons of the oppressed, the moral and material force we need to minimize the amount of violence necessary to overthrow the regime of violence under which humanity is suffering today.
Will we be left in peace to our work of propaganda, organization, and revolutionary preparation?
Fearmongering about anarchism in the aftermath of Bresci’s deed: New York Herald, August 1, 1900.
In Italy, they prevent us from speaking, from writing, from associating. They forbid workers from organizing and struggling peacefully for emancipation—or even to improve their miserable and inhumane conditions of existence a little bit. Prisons, house arrest, and bloody repression are inflicted not only on us anarchists, but on anyone who dares to imagine a better state of affairs.
Is it surprising that, if the hope of being able to fight profitably for their own cause is lost, ardent souls allow themselves to be carried away to acts of vindictive justice?
Police measures, which always target the least dangerous; the frantic search for non-existent instigators, which is grotesque to anyone familiar with the dominant spirit among anarchists; the thousand absurd proposals for extermination advanced by amateurs of policing—all these only serve to highlight the savage hatred that festers in the soul of governing classes.
If you want to completely eliminate the bloody revolt of the victims, the only sure way to do so would be to abolish oppression.
If you want to diminish the outbreaks, the only way to do so is to give everyone the freedom to carry out propaganda and organization; to give the dispossessed, the oppressed, the malcontents the possibility of engaging in civil struggles; to permit them the hope that they could obtain emancipation via bloodless means, even if gradually.
The government of Italy will not do anything but continue to repress… and will continue to reap what it sows.
While we deplore the blindness of the rulers who give this struggle an unnecessary harshness, we will continue to fight for a society in which all violence is eliminated, in which everyone has bread, freedom, knowledge, in which love is the supreme law of life.
A mural depicting Gaetano Bresci at a squat on Viale Corsica in Florence: “No peace without justice—direct action for a world without leaders.”
Selections from “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” published August 8, 1900.
When kings like Charles I, Louis XVI, or Maximilian of Mexico are sentenced to death, or
when they are killed in court revolutions, as were Peter III, Paul, and all kinds of sultans, shahs,
and khans, there is generally a silence on the subject. But when they are killed without a trial
and without court revolutions, as was the case with Henry IV, Alexander II, the Empress of
Austria, the Shah of Persia, and now Umberto, such murders rouse the greatest indignation and
amazement among kings, emperors, and their retinues, as though these men did not take part in
murders, did not make use of them, and did not prescribe them. And yet, the very best of the
kings slain, such as Alexander II and Umberto, were the authors, participants, and accomplice in
the murder of tens of thousands of men, who died on fields of battle, to say nothing of domestic
executions. The bad kings and emperors have been the authors of hundreds of thousands, or of
millions of murders…
The murders of kings, like the late murder of Umberto, are not terrible on account of their
cruelty. The acts committed by the commands of kings and emperors—not only in the past, as
the Night of Bartholomew, the massacres for the sake of faith, the terrible pacifications of
peasant uprisings, and the Versailles slaughters, but also the present governmental executions,
the starvations in solitary cells and disciplinary battalions, the hangings, the chopping off of
heads, the shooting, and the slaughters in war—are incomparably more cruel than the murders
committed by anarchists. Nor are these murders terrible on account of not having been deserved.
If Alexander II and Umberto did not deserve to be killed, how much less those thousands of
Russians who perished at Plevna deserved to be killed, and those Italians who perished in
Abyssinia. Such murders are not terrible on account of their cruelty or the innocence of the
murdered, but on account of the senselessness of those who commit them.
If kings such as Alexander, Carnot, and Umberto are murdered under the influence of a
personal sentiment of indignation, provoked by the sufferings of an enslaved nation, or under the
influence of a personal feeling of revenge, such acts, however immoral, are comprehensible. But
how is it that an organization of men—of anarchists, as they now say—which sent Bresci out,
and which is threatening another emperor, has not been able to invent anything better for the
amelioration of men’s condition than the murder of those men whose annihilation can be as
useful as the cutting off of the head of the Hydra, when in place of the one cut off there
immediately grew out a new one? Kings and emperors have long ago arranged things in the
same manner as in a magazine rifle: the moment one bullet flies out, another takes its place. Le
roi est mort; vive le roi! So what sense is there in killing them?
…It is not Alexander, Umberto, William, Nicholas, and Chamberlain who guide the
oppressions and wars of the nations, or who are the authors of the oppressions of the masses and
the murders in wars, but those who have put them in the positions of rulers over the lives of men,
and support them in these positions. And so Alexander, Nicholas, William, and Umberto are not
to be killed, but men are to stop supporting the order of society that produces them. What
supports the present order of society is the egotism and stupidity of men who sell their freedom
and honor for their insignificant material advantages…
Above all, we must not permit them to kill people; we must refuse to kill by their command.Appendix III: At the Station of Monza—A Song Inspired by Gaetano Bresci
One of a collection of songs about Gaetano Bresci.
(by anonymous—early 1900s)
At the Monza station
A train comes roaring in
They killed the king
Hit him with three bullets.
We will burn the churches and the altars,
We will burn the buildings that hold them up
With the guts of the last priest
We will hang the pope and the king.
Revolution yes, war on society,
Revolution yes, war on society.
Rather than living, living like this,
Better to die for freedom,
Better to die for freedom.
And the Vatican will burn
And the Vatican will burn
And the Vatican will burn
With the Pope inside.
And if the government opposes it
And if the government opposes it
And if the government opposes it
Revolution yes, war on society,
Revolution yes, war on society,
Rather than living, than living like this,
Better to die for freedom,
Better to die for freedom!
Graffiti remembering Bresci: “No peace without justice!” and a piazza named for King Umberto renamed in Bresci’s honor.