“Modern Slavery” is the general term for the collection of all the institutionalized forms of enslavement which provide foundations for each of the local regimes of Modern Civilization.
Some thoughts on being an anarchist at the beginning of the 21st century A serialized book-in-progress by Wolfi Landstreicher Introduction “…we are alone, with an entire world ranged against us.” -Andrea Dorea I have been an anarchist for well over thirty years now. For me this has never been an identity to which to cling,
Review by Paul Z. Simons American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen (Perennial Books, New York, 2011). 276 pp., $26.99 hardcover/$15.99 paper. So to keep the rhetoric and material in Modern Slavery alive with tales of slave revolts and insurrections, I inadvertently picked this book up while on
Karen Goaman has a PhD in Anthropology, University College London. She has written numerous articles in anthologies (2009, Jun & Wahl eds., New Perspectives on Anarchism; 2008, Roca Martínez ed., Anarquismo y Antropología; 2004, Purkis & Bowen eds., Changing Anarchism; 1997, Purkis & Bowen, Towards a 21st Century Anarchism) and in Anarchist Studies. She has
A review of Max Stirner’s Dialectical Egoism by Wolfi Landstreicher Max Stirner’s Dialectical Egoism: A New Interpretation by John F. Welsh (Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2010). 293 pp., $85.00 hardcover / $34.95 paper. Since its publication in 1844, Max Stirner’s book Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum (entitled The Ego and Its (or His) Own in
Modern slavery should need no introduction. Modern slavery already intrudes into every aspect of life, debasing all it touches. It is the underlying organizing principle for all major economic institutions east and west, north and south. Its support and defense are the unspoken but automatically-understood objects of all major – and the vast majority of the minor – social, political and cultural institutions. Its infrastructure and demands extend into the deepest levels of modern consciousness, coloring our dreams as well as our nightmares. Yet modern slavery is largely invisible.
Modern slavery is officially non-existent. It has been tossed down the memory hole. It is not spoken of in polite company. Every institutional and government functionary, from the lowest levels of bureaucratic purgatory to the upper levels of elite power, knows instinctively that any explicit mention of its name as a contemporary reality means instant social death within the hierarchy. It is a rare day when it is acknowledged in any public context, even by the most radical or reckless of iconoclasts. » Read more..
Some thoughts on being an anarchist at the beginning of the 21st century
A serialized book-in-progress by Wolfi Landstreicher
“…we are alone, with an entire world ranged against us.”
I have been an anarchist for well over thirty years now. For me this has never been an identity to which to cling, a label to give me a sense of belonging. It has rather been an ongoing challenge to face my life in a particular way, constantly raising the
question of what it means to reject every form of domination and exploitation in my life on a practical level. This is not a simple question with easy answers, but a problem that I have to wrestle with constantly, because I am facing a world here and
now in which domination and exploitation define social relationships, in which most individuals are dispossessed of every possibility of determining their own existence, alienated from the creative energy through which such a project could be
realized. As an anarchist, I have made a decision to reject and fight against this world. This makes me a deserter, an outsider, indeed, a stranger in an alien world. Obviously, this is not an easy choice. Several years ago I wrote: “I am not a peaceful man, a man content and willing to accept the will of the gods No, I am a man at war – with the world and with society, indeed, but also with myself and those I love the most.” And I think that this is inevitably true for any anarchist who is sincere in her desire to live her refusal of the impositions of the ruling order. To overcome the isolation of this refusal it is necessary to seek accomplices with whom to steal back the creative energy with which we can build our lives together on our own terms and with whom to use that energy to destroy the alien world that the ruling order imposes on us. I wrestle constantly with the question of how to go about living in this way and carrying on this project with joy. The thoughts that follow stem from this questioning.
As an anarchist, I have made a decision to reject and fight against this world. This makes me a deserter, an outsider, indeed, a stranger in an alien world…. To overcome the isolation of this refusal it is necessary to seek accomplices with whom to steal back the creative energy with which we can build our lives together on our own terms and with whom to use that energy to destroy the alien world that the ruling order imposes on us.
If I refer mainly to anarchists in speaking of the projects I pursue, it is because I am an anarchist and choose to carry out my projects in a certain way because of this. At the same time, I am quite aware that complicity cannot be limited to anarchists. There are those who hate the habitual, unthinking daily activities, relationships and roles that make up this society and that by their nearly universal unconscious acceptance are imposed on all of us, but who do not express this through revolutionary or anarchist ideas. Nonetheless, they act against this society in their lives, and they are also potential accomplices. In fact, only by being open to such relationships can we anarchists break out of the ghettos in which we so easily lose ourselves. So I am addressing these thoughts mainly to anarchists, but also to anyone who despises the enslaving impositions of this society. » Read more..
Review by Paul Z. Simons
American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen (Perennial Books, New York, 2011). 276 pp., $26.99 hardcover/$15.99 paper.
So to keep the rhetoric and material in Modern Slavery alive with tales of slave revolts and insurrections, I inadvertently picked this book up while on my way through some airport, somewhere. After looking at the young face of the author, and reading that his alma mater was Harvard, and that he had received a number of prizes during his years there, my worries grew; surely this couldn’t be a book that demonizes slaves for revolt? Harvard is a primitive place – but could it have reverted even deeper into the muck of ruling class snobbery, inbred genetic mutation, and bad nicknames? Finally I relented and bought the damn thing – what the hell, its better than watching the movie on the plane.
The author begins by focusing on the night of Epiphany, January 6, 1811, and details the extravagant balls, meals and gambling of the local white slave owning gentry who lived in or near New Orleans. Epiphany of course being the kickoff for the entire Carnival season that culminates annually in the liver-ossifying orgy of Mardi Gras. Simultaneously, as the masters were celebrating, he describes the revelry of the local slaves gathered on the Commons in the city. Perhaps as many as 500-600 individuals all told were present, and they danced in large circular formations, drank local fermented products, crowned a king for the event, even as the local gentry crowned their own Rex for Mardi Gras; and also plotted to pull the whole economic and political superstructure down by armed rebellion.
The real touchstone for the revolt, as it was for John Brown, was the success of the Haitian Revolution in 1803, which, as noted elsewhere freed the slaves, granted independence to the island nation, and as if to put paid to the whole deal banned all French citizens from Haiti – forever.
The planters were men who had abandoned Enlightenment era France for the possibility of huge profit and reward as a result of hacking some kind of living out of the wilderness. Sugar, as it turns out, was the right crop for the areas directly west of New Orleans, that ran along the northern banks of the Mississippi River. This area, named the “German Coast,” was famous for its heat, humidity, snakes, swamps, and many planters justified the use of African slaves as a result of this harsh environment. The transport of slaves to the United States was outlawed in 1808, but it is estimated that in the forty years prior the passage of the law proscribing importation of slaves that as many as 24,000 Africans were disembarked in New Orleans. The mortality rates of the slave trade are staggering. Forty percent of those captured never even made it to the west coast of Africa for transportation, ten percent perished during the Middle Passage, and only about a third would survive through the first four years in the New World. There is another side to this, though, and it shouldn’t be overlooked, many of those transported and who survived were some very tough customers indeed. The two slaves most associated with the German Coast Revolt are Kook and Quamana. The names suggest that the men were Akan, an African empire at the height of its power in the late eighteenth century; essentially a military union of a number of different tribes. The Akan controlled significant tracts of land throughout modern Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Many of the Akan slaves brought to the US were common soldiers who had been trained to make up the impressively large armies that African nations at that time fielded in warfare. It is likely, therefore that Kook and Quamana at least knew how to use weapons, and very probably had been trained to fight, even if they had never gone into battle. » Read more..
Karen Goaman has a PhD in Anthropology, University College London. She has written numerous articles in anthologies (2009, Jun & Wahl eds., New Perspectives on Anarchism; 2008, Roca Martínez ed., Anarquismo y Antropología; 2004, Purkis & Bowen eds., Changing Anarchism; 1997, Purkis & Bowen, Towards a 21st Century Anarchism) and in Anarchist Studies. She has worked as a Senior Editor in book publishing and as a part-time Lecturer in Communications at London Metropolitan University.
James Koehnline is a Seattle-based artist and library worker, long-time member of Autonomedia publishing collective and contributor to Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and other radical publications. Online gallery at:
Wolfi Landstreicher is a long-time anarchist and egoist, the author of the book Willful Disobedience from Ardent Press, publisher of the egoist anarchist bulletin, My Own, pamphleteer through his project Intellectual Vagabond Editions, translator (Italian and German, with occasional forays into French) and contributor to Anarchy, A Journal of Desire Armed, as well as Modern Slavery.
Bruno Massé is an environmental activist devoted to the anti-civilisation critique. As a fiction writer, he has published several works of horror, cyberpunk and erotica in French and English. He is a member of the Anarchist Writers Bloc and performs annually at the International Anarchist Theatre Festival of Montréal.
Jason McQuinn, the juggling anarchist, is a founder and was a long-time editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed from 1980 to 2006; as well as the founder and editor of Alternative Press Review and North American Anarchist Review while they were published, and now of the Modern Slavery journal.
Ron Sakolsky is a rainforest renegade whose recent books include Creating Anarchy (Fifth Estate,2005), Swift Winds (Eberhardt, 2009), and Scratching The Tiger’s Belly (Eberhardt, 2012); all meant as fleeting signposts illuminating a myriad array of marvelous adventures, disconcerting pitfalls, and dead ends on the constantly unfolding road from mutual acquiescence to mutual aid.
Paul Z. Simons was born May 3, 1960 – Salt Lake City – to an unwed mother, an act under Utah state law that made both he and his mother subject to arrest and fine or imprisonment. In his words, “I was born fighting against the law, I live that way and I’ll probably die that way.” An anarchist and Buddhist he has consistently staked out positions that motivate towards contestation with the authoritarian structure that currently labels itself Capital and society. He has written a number of widely read pieces including “Seven Theses on Play,” “Keep Your Powder Dry,” a chapter in Gone to Croatan, and the Afterword for John Zerzan’s Elements of Refusal. Finally he says, “My proudest moment was participating in the Tompkins Square riot. I found out what freedom and democracy were made of – in an instant.” Simons lives, works, and writes in LA.
Maurice Spira was born in Kent, England in 1944. After four years of quite traditional studies at a provincial art school, and a stint in advertising in London, he left in 1966 for the “new world.” In the ensuing years 1966-74, the psychoactively enriched counter-cultural milieu in Montréal transformed him utterly. Then, after travelling and painting in Mexico during the mid-seventies, he settled in Vancouver. By the early ’80s, requiring a breath of fresh air, Spira vacated the metropolis for a somewhat more rural existence on the Sunshine Coast. More than two decades later, he continues to paint and print in his Roberts Creek studio, while still finding time to grow excellent red cabbages and spuds.
Lawrence S. Stepelevich is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Villanova University. He served as President of The Hegel Society of America and, from 1977 to 1996, was the executive Editor of the Journal of that Society, The Owl of Minerva.
Joseph Winogrond (BA New School, MLitt Ethnology Aberdeen) studied at the University of Wisconsin under Walter R. Agard, Paul MacKendrick, Herbert M. Howe, Herbert S. Lewis and others in the classics and anthropology. After a “Flower Raj” year with the Tibetans at Benares he transferred to the New School where Stanley Diamond was teaching. In 1967 he was co-partner of the Liberation News Service, the New York wire service operated out of its basement offices on Claremont Avenue for more than 400 disparate 1960s underground newspapers. He is presently assembling a pre-market-economy dictionary of northern Europe, Wild English.
A review of Max Stirner’s Dialectical Egoism by Wolfi Landstreicher
Max Stirner’s Dialectical Egoism: A New Interpretation by John F. Welsh (Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2010). 293 pp., $85.00 hardcover / $34.95 paper.
Since its publication in 1844, Max Stirner’s book Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum (entitled The Ego and Its (or His) Own in the currently available English editions1) has rarely been dealt with on its own terms. When not simply suppressed, it has been misrepresented or used as a foil to promote agendas foreign to it. Alfredo Bonanno described it well in his book Max Stirner when he says, “The first duty toward Stirner: incomprehension.” Certainly, the few books written about Stirner and his ideas in English in the past century have reflected this lack of even a minimal understanding of what Stirner was doing. This is what makes John F. Welsh’s book distinctive.
I consider much of the “incomprehension” in the face of Stirner’s book to be a choice made by his various critics and commentators. It is true that Stirner’s thinking is difficult, but not in the sense of being hard to understand – and in his masterwork, Stirner presents it in a clear, even blunt, language. Rather its difficulty lies in the fact that it removes every abstract ground of certainty from beneath our feet, leaving us to rely only on ourselves. This is why he begins and ends the book with the cry: “I have set my cause upon nothing.”2 And very few want to face this prospect of total self-responsibility. Welsh seems to be one of those few, and this makes his book worth reading. Unlike all of Stirner’s critics whose works I have been able to read and most of his defenders as well, Welsh comes to Stirner with no obvious preconceptions about what Stirner was saying. Instead he attempts to understand what Stirner’s project actually was and how it might be useful to us now. The flaws in Welsh’s understanding relate to the most difficult aspects of Stirner’s thinking, his attempts to use language to point to the inconceivable, the unspeakable unique, and to the equally non-conceptual union of egoists. I will go into this more later. » Read more..
So as a quick justification for this post I want to state that I come from a long line of proudly alcoholic lawyers centered primarily in Wyoming and Utah–so while not a lawyer, I am occasionally fascinated by all things legal and criminal–depending on one’s definition. That said I can’t help but notice two recent news items that have struck a chord with the lawyerly part of my genome, and a twinge of deja vu–having been married/divorced several times; the tales of Shannon Rogers Richardson and Jodi Arias.
We’ll start with Jodi Arias whose story involves anal sex, Mormonism and murder most foul. Jodi met and fell in love with Travis Alexander, devout Mormon, motivational speaker and salesman at a business conference in Vegas September 2006. He converted her to Mormonism and subsequently baptized her in November of 2006, according to her they had anal sex the same day…whew, now there’s a way to celebrate a religious milestone. They became a couple–whatever that means–in February of 2007. The relationship, like most, was great in the beginning but eventually become purely sexual–a big no-no for devout Mormons, and it eventually forced their break up in June 2007. Suffice it to say, Arias hadn’t had enough and would occasionally venture to Mesa AZ from Yreka CA for some lubricated cuddling. » Read more..
I wouldn’t usually eulogize the recently dead for fear that upon investigation they might turn out to be less than what appeared at the moment. But in the instance of Aaron Swartz I feel moved to put a few lines down.
First I should note that as a 60′s baby I am only moderately computer literate, and that other than ranting, watching movies, and enjoying porn my skills at the machine are limited. That said, Aaron Swartz was clearly one of the folks who put their money where their mouth was to maintain the internet as it is, a Wild West show of all possible opinion available to almost anyone (almost anywhere) in an instant. This guy, who in spite of wealth and fame, would sneak into an MIT basement to pry loose academic journal articles, and just about anything else not nailed down to be posted, free of charge, on the internet must have rattled the dogs of law. So much so that they saw fit to arrest him and prosecute him. The punishments proposed for Swartz were daunting, 35 to 50 years behind bars and from 1 to 4 million dollars fine.
Some of the liberal media have bemoaned the “obviously” depressed state that led to his suicide which I take as pure CNN psycho-bullshit. When someone does something honorable make it psychotic — its the only way to have it make sense in these the waning days of Babylon. He saw where he was, the fines, the bilge rat prosecutor, and took his life back by taking his life. Never, ever relinquish freedom to the state, if you must kill to keep it kill. Swartz lived the same truth, his solution was the taking of his own life. I honor this internet pirate, this reboot buccaneer, as cunning and freedom loving as any of the marine version, and hope that the prosecutor who is responsible finds himself in hell, where there’s a special circle reserved for his ilk. Thanks Aaron for the example of your life and of your death — who will stand next in the breach you have left? And who will avenge this tragedy?
Spending monotonous hours among the common people, the resigned ones, the collaborators, the conformists – isn’t living; it’s a vegetative existence, simply the transport, in ambulatory form, of a mass of flesh and bones. Life needs the exquisite and sublime experience of rebellion in action as well as thought. –Severino DiGiovanni
Every once in a while I stumble on a quote, or a photo, or a piece of music that grabs me and shakes me furiously, reminds me who the hell I am, what I believe and why I believe it — and then pushes me on. The quote by DiGiovanni above is one such artifact, there are many others. Sometimes holding on to simple, evocative imagery, quotation, memory is as important to me as the more turbulent climate of debate and theory. As if everything I’ve ever read, or written, or thought, can be distilled down to momentary sensation. The feel of a plastic tie handcuff on the wrist, pulling a combatant away from a cop and releasing him — then blocking the cop with my body to stop him from the chase, or the image of lowering halogen street lights on a humid summer night in Tompkins Square. Whatever it is in each moment that keeps one oriented towards the final goal of a life that is lived and not endured is the most valuable thing one can claim. And whether held closely by the individual or shared in song, image, or word these artifacts hold me fascinated, hold me engaged in this work that must be done, and that will be completed.
Most of us have made a compact, saying “Let us make a convention. Let us agree to call what we are feeling not ‘pain’ but ‘neutral,’ not ‘dull unease’ but ‘well enough,’ not ‘restless dissatisfaction intermitted by blowing up,’ but average ‘hanging around.’ Our consensus is that how we live is tolerable. If I ask, ‘How are you?’ you must say, ‘Pretty good.’ And if I do not remind you, you must not remind me. To all this we swear.”1
The hugger-mugger totality wants nothing and does nothing. They are entangled with one another, do not move, prisoners; they abandon themselves to opaque pressures but they themselves are the power that lies upon them and binds them, mind and limb.2
What I will refer to here as “mutual acquiescence” is the social adhesive that cements the bricks of alienation and oppression which structure our daily lives into a wall of domination. It is a major obstacle to the practice of what anarchists refer to as “mutual aid” in that the latter is concerned with providing the cooperative means for vaulting that wall. While cooperation can take many forms, for Peter Kropotkin, who developed the evolutionary theory of mutual aid3 in relation to human behavior, its quintessence in the political realm is anarchy. With that in mind, I will take the liberty here of referring to the concept of mutual aid only in the anarchist sense, and will consider those cooperative human relationships associated with welfare state capitalism and state socialism as being built upon forms of mutual acquiescence because of their implicit or explicit statist assumptions which run counter to anarchy.
Even in its least cooperative and most authoritarian forms, mutual acquiescence cannot simply be equated with unmediated mass conformity to societal norms. The hierarchical power of rulers and ruling ideas are reinforced by the interpersonal collaboration of the ruled in their own servility. Such collaboration is composed of the paralyzing intermediary social relationships that are the scaffolding of conformist assimilation to the ideological authority of society and state. What makes mutual acquiescence so insidious is that it is a form of social control that is rooted in the everyday psychological and social relationships of consent that compose the lived experience of domination. Accordingly, an analysis of how mutual acquiescence prevents and immobilizes individual and collective forms of direct action allows for a more nuanced model of domination and resistance than can be afforded by merely referencing the devastating effects of conformity imposed from above. » Read more..
Nineteenth century anarchist thinkers were all about elevating science to a place where it would strip the masses of superstition, the sacred, the seeming inevitability of the system of State and Capital. Suffice it to say, science has drawn up short on all these promises. In fact as the lapdog of technology, science has done more in the past hundred years to further enslave the species than virtually any other social component. I loathe the arrogance of science and scientists, and so like Charles Fort I love it when observed phenomena occur far outside the safe, rational, reproducible boundaries of any scientific field. To begin this series on the Death of Science let’s start with the moon, one of the great enigmas, that has astronomers still spinning and looking for explanations.
The biggest mystery of the moon is the most obvious, as any child knows one side of the moon faces the earth all the time, and the other side, the dark side, does not. Clear enough, but that also makes the moon the only known heavenly body that does not spin on it axis. The moon, based on mineral tests is about the same age as the solar system, 4.5 million years. Meaning it was formed separately from the solar system and in some fashion got trapped in the earth’s gravitational field (“capture”), or did somebody put it there? The “capture theory” fell apart quickly as the earth doesn’t have enough mass to redirect the moon into orbit from any trajectory. After the Apollo program a number of startling discoveries about the moon were made and one speculation, voiced by MIT scientist Sean C. Solomon, “The Lunar Orbiter experiments vastly improved our knowledge of the Moon’s gravitational field … indicating the frightening possibility that the Moon might be hollow.” Frightening? You bet, because as astronomers know, and as voiced by Carl “Billions and Billions” Sagan in 1966,” “A natural satellite cannot be a hollow object.” Hmmmm. Finally the moon does an interesting thing when you hit it—it resonates, like a bell or a gong. NASA has, on occasion, hurtled space junk at the moon to see what kind of seismic activity occurs. Apollo 12 radio controlled the Lunar Module stage to crash onto the moon, and the surface reverberated for about an hour. The ill-fated Apollo 13 went one better and crashed the entire third stage thruster into the moon and set reverberations off that lasted over three hours. Totally unconvinced of anything, the NASA guys really wanted to see what would happen when a large, natural object struck the moon, and they got their chance on May 13, 1972 when a large meteor struck the surface with the force of 200 tons of TNT. Ideally, the shock waves should have traveled to the moons center and the bounced back to the surface. What happened was that the shock waves never came back, indicating some type of damping material near the core, or possibly, once again, a hollow space that swallowed the shock waves whole. So there it is, what is up with the moon? And to our intrepid, arrogant priests of astrophysics and planetology–how about an explanation?
So to continue on in a military vein for another entry, I ask you to consider the Battle of Thermopylae, not its import or impact, not the proto-fascist interpretations in recent graphic novels and films (“300″), but the real deal. There on the ground, shoulder to shoulder with 10,000 other Greeks staring off at the hordes assembled by Xerxes for the sole purpose of enslaving you, raping the wife and kids, and carrying off the livestock. I am always drawn to the second day of the three day battle, the 24 hours sandwiched between the first day and the hope of success and possibly relief from other Greeks, and the grim destiny of the third day when the progress of the elite Persian Immortals down from behind the battle front means that death is only hours away. What of the second day? Where a combatant has lost hope for both victory and defeat, when the only thing that occupies the mind is the battle itself. Who is fighting, the vast historical and spiritual forces behind the conflict, the political ramifications pale into nothingness on this day. The Mediterranean sun booms out overhead, the armor and greaves become leaden and burn in the heat, sweat pours down the neck and a wound scabs with dust as the battle roars on and the dead of Persia pile high. Is the only real thing in those hours a sip of water, perhaps some bread and cheese, the taste of hot wine? What happens when the fighting and dying become a meaningless never ending round of toil, when spear and sword have been broken and discarded and one is left with nothing but the will with which to continue to do battle? And the day ends in the twilight reflected off the sea, the sounds of gulls and the cries of the wounded and dying echo in the ears, the helmet is laid aside and sleep and weariness overtake mind and body. Is there a grim satisfaction that one is still alive, still able to fight one’s foe and to stop this madness from invading the homes of those one loves. Or is there a final thought — I did all I could to protect my freedom today, tomorrow, tomorrow I will fight harder.