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Archive for Paul Z. Simons

Dispatches from Brazil Two: The Pot comes to a Boil, Many Demos, and Is there any Right left?

SP318a
El Errante

(São Paulo, Brazil) The orange halogen glow of the lamps in the courtyard at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC) makes the air seem denser and more humid than it really is. I had been asked by an anarchist group (Nu-Sol) to present on my experiences in Rojava and was about halfway through the evening…

“So the YPG has a 45 day training protocol…” Then a series of deafening, wrenching explosions tore through the courtyard like thunder. I stopped for an instant, regrouped and continued.
“Jeeezus…” I said, “I felt safer in Rojava than in the US; I guess I can add Brazil to that list.” As my friend completed the translation of the sentence there was a ripple of laughter and I returned to business.
It was supposed to be easy. A few weeks in Brazil, some presentations, some beach, and then back to the US. And right up to the talk in Salvador that’s the way it had gone.

Then on Sunday, March 13th, a friend and I had decided to stroll down to the beach. As we walked we were passed by one or two folks decked out in yellow and green shirts. Then a few more. And a few more. I turned to my friend and asked, “What the fuck?”SP318

“A soccer game maybe. No, a protest against Dilma and the government. That’s what this is.”

When we turned the corner onto the beach area the entire street was a waving sea of yellow, green and blue, the colors of the Brazilian flag. Many people carried homemade signs denouncing the government and corruption. Sure enough, a protest demanding that Lula, the previous President of Brazil, be sent to jail for corruption and that Dilma, the current President of Brazil, be impeached. We picked our way through the rolling waves of yellow and green shirts, my friend translating the signs and the chants, then whispering the English into my ear. Finally I went into journalist mode and started asking questions. I spoke to two older looking gentlemen who each carried signs denouncing corruption. The men, both in their 70s, were a dentist and a filmmaker respectively. The message from each was exactly the same and simple, Lula is a crook, so is Dilma. They must both leave public life.
The current tale of political upheaval in Brazil is of Byzantine complexity. It includes a centre-left party (The Worker’s Party, PT) that was once respected (or feared), and it’s slow slide into corruption and decay. Recently criminal investigations and judicial proceedings were initiated against Lula for taking kickbacks while running the country’s lucrative oil concession, Petrobras. At the same time Dilma, the once popular female President, has had her hands full with charges of bribery in the legislature, payoffs to move legislation forward, and an incoming bill for impeachment that has a better than average chance of approval. Issues of race and class are also prominent as the PT has traditionally been the party of the poor, of black folks, and, as the name implies, of workers. The opposition is made up of electoral parties and large media firms that seek to represent the rich, the finance sector, and they have proven to be social media savvy, and increasingly bold. Finally over the past year, the economic situatiuon in Brazil has become sufficiently grim that the media refer to it as “The Crisis.” And to add one last ingredient to this already volatile mix — memories of the decades of dictatorship (1964 – 1980), the repression and military rule, simmer darkly in the minds of Brasilieros, old and young.

After returning to the hotel I sat and wrote some notes and then it occurred to me — I asked my traveling companion, “Did you see any black folks in the demonstration?”

She thought a moment and replied, “One or two.”

“Yeah, damned few.”sp318b

On March 18th after my return to São Paulo I attended the next installment of the ongoing political melodrama, a protest by supporters of Lula, Dilma, and the PT. By now the discourse had become more shrill, including a small occupation by anti-Dilma forces of a sidewalk on the Avenida Paulista, the main thoroughfare in that behemoth of urban sprawl. Anti-PT forces were also sporting signs with a hand print that included a missing finger, a clear reference to Lula, who as an auto worker had had his little finger sheared off in an industrial accident. A number of folks I had met had decided to check out the demo and so we went. The Avenida Paulista was the site for this demo and prior to the arrival of the PT faithful the police had cleared out the anti-Dilma occupiers in order to avoid an inevitable collision. My first impression was one of the overwhelming force that the Military Police had assembled to keep the demonstrators in check. As I stepped out of the subway I saw two immense armored vehicles painted in grey and dark blue camouflage, with rocket launchers for tear gas and concussion grenades parked in the center of the Avenida. One of my hosts turned to me, pointed at the vehicles and said, “Those they bought from Israel. They were initially designed for the rioting in Gaza and elsewhere.”

Huge crowds again, most dressed in the red of the PT, some communists and socialists, perhaps as many as 100,000 attended the Sao Paulo demo, and there were dozens of other pro-Lula gatherings across the country. As we walked through the crowd my companions saw a number of other area anarchists, and a group of anarcho-communists waving a huge black and red flag. This prompted me to ask, “Are the anarchists here supporting Dilma and Lula?”

“Yes and no. At this time the issue is not pro- or anti-Dilma, it’s a coup. That’s why many anarchists are here.”

As it turned out that’s the reason that a number of other people were also there. I spoke to one gentleman, a salesman, who replied to my question as to why he was at the rally with one word, “1964.” The year that the military seized power.

There was a sense of urgency at this demonstration absent at the anti-PT rally, and part of the discourse, present in the signs and speeches, demanded the maintenance of democracy and democratic structures. My final impression was the impressive size of the demo and how different it felt from similar gatherings I had attended in the US. The Brasilieros were certain, clear in their attendance and proud of their views. In the US, there is a certain sense of anxiety and from some participants also shame at events like this. As if having the freedom to speak was sufficient and actually exercising that right was some kind of weakness or insult to their communities.

As I concluded my talk at PUC and packed my laptop into my bag several students entered the courtyard. Speaking rapidly they seemed frightened, unsure. I asked someone to translate and was told that there had been a scuffle between pro- and anti- PT forces. Evidently the students of the faculties of Law, Economics, and Business Administration had rented a large truck with loudspeakers, parked it in front of PUC and commenced to conduct a rally in support of jailing Lula and impeaching Dilma. This brought out the (mostly) lefty student body who then proceeded to harass and torment their peers. In the final scuffle the left students had demanded to have access to the mic so they could present their case. More pushing on both sides and the truck was driven off. Then the Military Police moved in shooting concussion grenades and tear gas, including firing one tear gas canister into the third floor window of a classroom building.

students1By the time I had walked out to the street the remaining group of left wing students were listening to impromptu speeches from folks who climbed onto a set of stairs. Most of what was said was less about the actual issues, and addressed more generally fascism, and warned of a possible coup. In the morning a few news feeds had video of the action and one was truly unique. It showed the Business, Law and Economics students denouncing the possibility of a left-wing coup and revolution. They chanted the exact same words that I heard on the Avenida Paulista just a few days earlier, “No to the coup!”

As a final observation, it’s incredible how much of the discourse and dialogue of the anti-Lula crowd was grounded in the language of the Left. As if the Brazilian elites, bereft of any real political ideas, had settled on parroting the word “corruption” in place of a real programme. It seemed they were following several steps behind the PT and its allies. I never conjecture. In this instance though it seems that the political tension in Brazilian society is leading to some sort of denouement, a potential collision. The outcome of which, whether played out in the chambers of the judiciary, or in the streets, no one can guess.

Dispatches from Brazil One: Swimming Pool and Ocean, Manumission for a New Millennium

El Errante -Brazilian hotel beach

El Errante

(Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil) I sit and look out from my hotel room at the lurid spectacle of civilization decomposing in front of my eyes. I had some time between presentations about my experiences in Rojava and decided to spend a few days of R & R on the beach in the city of Salvador. The hotel is virtually empty and, save a few inmates on the first and seventh floor and the staff, I seem to be here alone. It’s hot and the smell of ocean and city mixing on lazy afternoons seems to reflect the mélange of tropical juices and liquor that define the beverage choices at this hotel.

The hotel has a swimming pool, set off the beach by several hundred yards. A typical quadrangle affair painted light blue, with beach chairs set in mathematic precision around the edge. A flourish of palm, grass and umbrella completes the tableau. Tourists inhabit the scene. Primarily folks from the Brazilian middle and upper middle class, they include a few young families and older couples — either retired or in that state of metamorphosis from gainfully employed to aging obsolescence.

The denizens of the pool lead an amphibious life. Much of their time is spent reclining in beach chairs, reading from either books or pads, and adjusting ill-fitting swim wear. Most are lighter skinned Brazilians, indicating some wealth and enfranchisement into the dominant culture. Young moms and dads watch their respective broods, occasionally issuing warnings about the depth of the pool, the intensity of the sun, the heat of the concrete, and the constant refrain, voiced in Portuguese, Spanish and German of “Don’t run, you’ll slip and fall.” The youngsters heed nothing and constantly swim in the deep end, wipe off sunblock, burn their feet on the steaming concrete and race like demons around the pool. The old folks sun like lizards and when they feel the urge move slowly towards the pool, entering the water slowly using a set of concrete stairs. Once in the water they stand around the edges, they wade, their arms moving in graceful semicircles in the crystal chlorinated water. One night I watched as four or five folks stood in a watery circle talking and laughing, very much like a conversation at a party or reception. The social space only slightly skewed as a result of the movement of water and bodies. At one end of the pool, a view can be had of the beach as it stretches off to the north. Usually at least one, sometimes several, swimmers can be seen standing in the north corner of the swimming pool looking off towards the beach and the curling surf. And what they see likely attracts and repels them in the same instant, because in that scene of crashing sand and sea other actors can be viewed, homeless black kids as they play and churn in the restless sea.

I had tried to get to the ocean and beach one afternoon but was informed by the hotel security guys that it wasn’t safe. Specifically that the kids who used the beach were from the favela and they might be a problem for hotel guests. Evidently the security folks considered us prey for the predators who swam and lazed on the other side of the hotel’s barriers. Truths sometimes peek out from behind ridiculous situations. This, apparently, is one of those times.

The young people stand in the ocean, talk, laugh and compete to see who can body surf a wave for the longest time. 

Unbound by credit cards, the daily slavery of the wage, the petty aggravations of Capital and nation-state, the black kids play and kick soccer balls on a sun-blanched beach.

Their dark skin indicating a place in Brazilian society far removed from the observers in the pool. Many are likely homeless, or live with families and friends far removed from the bustling downtown of Salvador. Their lack of engagement with the dominant society, however, seems to affect them very little in the present. The sea, salt breeze and sun that grace their world is a million miles away from the cutthroat capitalism that one day will surely rise up and demand their obedience, and subjugation. But as it is, in this the moment, they are far freer than the inmates of the hotel’s swimming pool. Unbound by credit cards, the daily slavery of the wage, the petty aggravations of Capital and nation-state, the black kids play and kick soccer balls on a sun-blanched beach. While the truly enslaved look on in mixed horror and admiration as the descendents of those in bondage drink in a life that they can never know.

Report Back from the Rojava Revolution Bay Area Tour

Rojava Revolution Bay Area Tour

Rojava Revolution Bay Area Tour

 

Sunday, December 6th, 7pm, Santa Cruz

SubRosa Infoshop, 703 Pacific Ave

Monday, December 7th, 7pm, Monterey

Old Capitol Books, 559 Tyler St

Tuesday, December 8th, 7pm, Cupertino

De Anza College, Campus Center, Conference Room A&B, 21250 Stevens
Creek Blvd. $3 parking permit required for campus parking.

Saturday, December 12th, 7pm, Oakland

OMNI Commons, 4799 Shattuck Ave

Sunday, December 13th, San Francisco

Station 40, 16th Street 4040 B (Near Mission Street). Note, Station 40
is up two flights of stairs.

Sponsored by: Modern Slavery, FireWorks, Ruins of Capital Distro,
Industrial Workers of the World/Solidarity Network San Jose, Direct
Action Monterey Network (DAMN), SubRosa Infoshop, OMNI Commons, and
Station 40.


Free Radical Radio interview with Paul Z. Simons on Rojava (November 2015)

 

Free Radical Radio:

Interview with Paul Z. Simons on Stories from Rojava on revolution, daily life & hope

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Audio interview download here

by: rydra / Free Radical Radio
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Paul Z. Simons, also known as El Errante, is interviewed by rydra on his recent trip to Rojava. Paul tells stories of his trip, relays discussions he had with people in Rojava in the YPG, YPJ, taxi drivers, translators and more. Paul describes the situation in Rojava as a “post-leftist revolution in a pre-leftist society.” Paul also tells us how he got into the country, how others can, and why he feels that what is going on there is important to anarchists all around the world.

 

Time Stamps:

0:00 Paul talks about being a post-left anarchist and interacting with actual humans instead of just theory

3:30 logistics of how he made contacts and got into Rojava

7:30 border crossing and “press passes”

9:30 discussion of western media and the accuracy of the news coming out of Rojava. More discussion of how geography and autonomous structures look. How do the cantons relate to each other?

13:50 rydra asks Paul to explain the role of the US, Turkey, Syria, and Russia in Rojava.

17:00 Rojava power structure broken down with a cake analogy. How do communes function there?

20:00 TEV-DEM: who are they and how are they working in the communes

23:00 discussion of daily life, what it looks like in the villages and the cities.

26:00 ideology? “they are aware that they are in the midst of a revolution.” “Would the US government accept a passport from an anti-government.” Personal stories.

29:30 Paul runs into the legislative minister for Kobani and discuses their role.

31:20 visiting with YPG, and what life looks like for the militia, and the differences between their militia and an army

34:00 discussion of gender and the YPG. YPJ, and a cultural shift?

37:00 impression of what is going on, tastes, smells, sights. What is going on socially? The idea of death to Gilgamesh, and Rojava as a different way for humans to live.

42:00 A bit of analysis on anarchism and the common comment that “it can never work.” Paul on hope.

43:20 rydra edits a super smooth transition into a revolutionary YPG song

45:20 returning to the idea of hope(hiccups) and what it means to be a human being in Rojava completely surrounded by giant power structures and multiple governments.

47:30 Paul discusses what a revolution is like, getting out of our heads, and the feeling that “revolution grabs you by the heart.”

51:00 Where do Ocalan and the PKK fit into all of this. Is there concern over this and how is power playing out?

55:30 Being a post-leftist, cussing, and “a post-leftist revolution in a
pre-leftist country.” Never heard talk of working class and being
anti-marxist.

58:40 lessons learned from his trip, coming back to America and the Bay Area.

1:00:25 “I’ve made my decision, I’m here to help others make theirs.”  The idea of an anarchist home.

1:04:00 things for people to do?

Rojava Dispatch Final: Journey Home

IMG_0241El Errante

 

“Mr. Errante … did you visit Syria?” The US Border Patrol officer stares at me through the bulletproof plastic that separates us. He shifts in his seat. The man wants an answer.

“Me? Syria? No. No way … too dangerous,” I say. Praying the lie doesn’t show on my face. I’m in Dublin, at US Pre-clearance, almost back to the States and now, it seems, I may have some explaining to do.

He scoops up my passport and customs declaration in his right hand and says, “Come this way Mr. Errante. We’re going to search your luggage.” For the first time, during the entire trip, that sickening feeling of real fear rises inside me.IMG_0404

 

 

 

 

Two days earlier — Paris. A singular morning, fresh sun and breeze, the kind of daybreak that only the Mother of the Revolutions can serve for breakfast. I walk through Père Lachaise Cemetery my head and shoulders hunched forward. I know this old boneyard like a good friend, and there’s one memorial that calls me now. The Mur des Fédérés (the Wall of the Federals). A place on the enclosing wall of the old cemetery where several hundred Communards were taken to be slaughtered by the forces of law and order. The memorial comes into view, a simple plaque on a wall of stone. Nothing more. I pull a YPG flag from my bag IMG_0424and drape it over the memorial. I take a photo. A German man and his daughter walk around the corner. I ask him to take a photo of me and the wall and the flag. As he preps, my hand once again rises, almost unconsciously in the V salute and he snaps a few photos. I am not done. There are two more photos to be taken. One photo with the flag draped over Oscar Wilde’s tomb, and one photo at the sculpted bronze cap that seals Nestor Makhno’s ashes into the Columbarium. Taking the final picture I notice an odd thing, did the likeness of Makhno smile a bit when I placed the YPG flag? Or is it me?

The Border Patrol officer walks me to a holding room in the Pre-Clearance area. I am told to sit on a row of benches. As I sit I see that I am facing a wall of waist high one-way mirrors. In the reflection I can see several officers directly behind me looking at my passport and paper work. They talk quietly and nod.

IMG_0418

 

 

 

 

My mind begins to play smuggler’s games. I go through all the potential contraband in my bags, numerous YPG/J flags, buttons, and patches. A book called Stateless Democracy, TEV-DEM flags, HPC flags and an HPC emblazoned brown uniform vest including two Velcro pockets that exactly fit a Kalashnikov banana clip for 7.62mm X 39 mm bullets. Additionally, several pro-YPG/J, TEV-DEM magazines in scary Daesh-looking Arabic and latinized Kurmanji. Welp, enough there for a few hours of interrogation, maybe even a day or two of detention. One of the Border Patrol officers calls me to his window. I stand, turn, and walk with measured steps to where he motioned me.

After the stroll through Père Lachaise I hail a taxi and head to the hotel. The taxi driver swerves through the Place de la République on our way back to the Left Bank when it catches my eye. A flag; the yellow/red/green flag of the Kurdish Autonomous Region, then two, and then three of them. Finally I see a huge YPG pennant, yellow with red star, as it lazes and hops in the mid-afternoon swirl. I yell at the taxi driver to stop and pay the fare frantically. I hop into traffic on the Rue du Temple and quickly read the sign over the bandstand, “International March against Daesh, For Kobane, For Humanity.”IMG_0427

Whooomp, there it is, it’s November 1st — International Kobane Day, and one more time, I am enmeshed in the Revolution.

I walk through the crowd, smelling the food, seeing the colors, transported back to Kobane and Cizere by the sound of spoken Kurmanji, and the feeling of rebirth, of making a new world. There is a tent where representatives of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Turkish, HDP) sit, drink tea, and converse. I walk over and introduce myself. I show them some of my photos and posts about Rojava. They speak together, then someone is sent to find a translator fluent in Turkish, French, Kurmanji, and English. After what might be my last glass of Kurdish style tea for a very long time, the translator arrives and we begin to talk about how HDP integrates activities with events in Rojava. As the conversation runs I once again feel it. The openness, the excitement, the lack of fear, the infectious hope in everything these folks do and believe. The. Damned. Hope.

The Border Patrol officer eyeballs me up and down and asks if I have any cigarettes in my bag. I grin and say, ”Yup, 15 packs of Gitanes and Gauloises, can’t buy’em in the US anymore, y’know.”

A slight smile crosses his face and he asks about money, gold, anything else I might try to be getting across the border. I answer that I have a few Euros, a few dollars — maybe a total of $100 altogether. No gold, no cheese, nada. He tells me to have a seat while they x-ray my bag. I return to my seat. Only one thought crosses my mind now, did the YPG/J use any paint on those flags that might show up on an x-ray? Oh well, what the hell. I’ll find out soon enough.

IMG_0395

 

 

 

As I leave the rally one last sign catches my eye, white on black, and bold, cutting statements in French — demanding victory for the YPG. Well, it’s the folks from the Fédération Anarchiste (FA), come to voice an opinion. I saunter over and introduce myself, they know me a bit, I know them a bit. I am invited back to their infoshop just off the Place de la République. I sit for a while, tell them what I’d seen in Rojava. They ask questions. I have some answers — not many. I walk around their space, buy a few posters, thank them and leave. Now, a short night’s sleep, a long day’s flight, and home.

The Border Patrol officer calls me to his window. I am now frustrated and angry and hope I can hold my tongue. He looks me up and down one last time and says, “Mr. Errante, you can proceed. Your bags will be put back on the plane. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

“No inconvenience at all, really,” I respond. And with that final lie I leave Preclearance, feeling very much, sodomized.

At the San Francisco airport I debark the plane and walk slowly toward the bag claim. It’s taken me 26 hours to travel what should have taken 13. My back and legs ache and my head feels like a tree is growing in it. As I round the final corner my compañera appears up ahead. She smiles and we walk quickly to each other. I touch her hand, it is cool and warm, it feels like love. We embrace, I smell her hair, and I whisper, “I made it.”
“Home,” is all she replies. The sound of her voice — dusky, low, familiar — tells me the rest.

(My name is El Errante. My name is Paul Z. Simons. Thanks for reading — hope you enjoyed the Dispatches.)IMG_0436

Introduction to the Black Eye anthology!

What Were You Thinking Of…
When You Dreamt That Up?
–Echo and the Bunnymen

It is 1988.
It is August.
It is the Beginning of the End.

In a dark room five figures move around a table, they talk, three smoke. A piece of paper is drawn through a typewriter. One figure sits and leans forward, the smacking of typewriter keys echoes around the room and slowly words roll out onto the paper…

BLACK EYE was born pathogenic and perverse in a basement in the Lower East Side’s Heart of Darkness. Half a dozen comrades armed with even fewer weapons (besides pens and typewriters, a few cartoons and quite a few ideas) set out to upend this rotten yuppified, spectacular world and provide first-hand reports of its demise. Initial articles ranged from paganism to the poverty of student life to the confessions of an ex-Trotskyist. Fiction and poetry complement revolutionary theory and resurgent utopianism. Eclecticism continues to be a virtue, is desired and cultivated, a political gesture itself in an era of heterogeneity. The common ingredient is liberation.

The malcontents responsible for this rag are lust-crazed maximalist freedom fighters, ornery and virulently independent squatters, latter day rock and roll Jacobins and potentialities seeking to impose their unique Frankenstein monster egos on an unsuspecting America oblivious to its own decomposition. It must be admitted: BLACK EYE was founded by anarchists.

At the very heart of the problem, if not near to it, one encounters Leftism, in its Liberal to Leninist variants, and institutionalized opposition, part and parcel of the dominant culture. The BLACK EYE folks recognize Right and Left as two sides of the same ugly coin and say don’t take any wooden nickels and DEMAND MORE THAN SPARE CHANGE! The complicity of Leftism must be exposed. We refuse to forget the unforgivable or forgive the unforgettable.

The domination of the specialists will come to an end. Publishing is a good place to start. BLACK EYE publishes those who never fancied themselves writers, plagiarizes blatantly from all manner of texts, and snatches material circulating through the mail or mouthed by frenzied poets in New York City. BLACK EYE sneered at offers of word-processing and desk-top publishing and the concomitant smorgasbord of computer generated stylistics in order to demystify information and argument. “Hey I can do that!” With a few bucks, a typewriter and a xerox machine, anyone can be a modern Tom Paine, celebrating their opinions, communicating with others. BLACK EYE does not seek to “grow” and pities those held captive by economistic and productivist outlooks. Instead we hope to see similar projects initiated by others everywhere and all over our post-industrial landscape. We think that this will be an important step in people beginning to think for themselves again.

BLACK EYE wants to corrode all your received ideas and cherished ideological assumptions. It will give you a black eye if it doesn’t open your eyes, and it might just set you on an adventurous path of zero-work role refusal and you’ll discover you’re a voluntary conscript in an army of conscious egoists practicing the permanent revolution of desire.

BLACK EYE is a proto-council of the marvelous.

BLACK EYE asks, Why not?

black_eye_cover

Black Eye anthology cover: published by Little Black Cart

It is 2014.
It is August.
It is the End of the Beginning.

If the foregoing text wasn’t really written that way, it should have been. During the ’80s and ’90s there were a million zines. They came in all colors and flavors. Some were political, some were erotic, some were awful. Most are about being pissed off at someone or something. Who knows how these things start? Someone somewhere finds that they have a few extra reams of paper, they type up a few ideas, maybe steal some artwork and paste and copy and staple for a few hours. Friends get copies in the mail, strangers find them on the floor of a bus. They are thrown away; they are cherished. Pretty soon everyone is a publisher, an editor, a critic, a writer, and a clown; or at least they could if they wanted to. And that is what fueled the global zine machine. The possibility; the dangerous, stormy potential.

In spring of 1998 I had just been through a nasty breakup and with $2,000 in my pocket went South of the Border to drink, sun, and with any luck, kill myself; well, two out of three ain’t bad. I returned to NYC in July of 1988 and found that a few friends and malcontents who hung out at the Anarchist Switchboard had put enough material together to crank out an issue of a zine they called Black Eye. I had returned from Central America with sufficient diary and travelogue copy to pitch in an article for the next few issues. And that’s how I found my way into the weird and wonderful world of zines.

The production of Black Eye was a work of love. Graphics were stolen from other zines, canned graphics books lifted from art supply houses, things found on the street, advertisements, doodles. Each writer was responsible for their own copy so the zine had a mind-bending array of fonts, sizes, smashed typewriter keys and sometimes just plain pen on paper was used. Usually just one of us took responsibility for pasting an issue together and then we would all take turns copying the pasted sheets. I don’t know how many millions of free copies I stole from my various places of employment. One of us worked in a stationery store with a xerox machine in back—thousands more pages were churned out there. Finally if no one could steal anymore copier time we went to Kinko’s and paid for the last few copies—it was worth it.

Black Eye came out in print runs of 500, with the one exception of the Tompkins Square Park Riot edition (Issue #3); we’ll get into later. St. Mark’s Books would take a few copies, we’d all try to sell copies to people better off than we were, some we would give to friends—hundreds we would trade through the mail, which was another great secret of the zine world. As chaotic and fluid as the whole scene was, there was one central touch point, Factsheet Five (FF), a quarterly that came out of California and later, New York. Originally the brainchild of Mike Gunderloy and in the beginning years covering only sci-fi fanzines, by the late 1980’s FF contained reviews of literally thousands of zines. We would look through Factsheet Five for other zines that interested us and we would trade with them. The zine universe was an underground hive of activity, discussion, character assassination, and argument fueled by the US postal service.

Black Eye set out initially on a course of anarchist theory, fiction, and some personal reflection as in the “Diary of an Ex-Trotskyist” and the short story “Puppy and Kitty Prison” in Issue One. Graphics played an important part of Black Eye and we used detourned cartoons, free hand drawings and stuff stolen from other zines. We learned quickly that high contrast pen and ink worked much better than gently shaded images, so no Hokusai in Black Eye, but a lot of comics.
Black Eye was very much a “local zine” during this period, concentrating on issues of squatting, homelessness, NYC Police Department barbarity and anything we could cull from word of mouth. Then between the second and third issue the unreal happened. The City of New York decided to impose a curfew on Tompkins Square Park in the heart of the Lower East Side and a few blocks from both the squats and the Anarchist Switchboard. It was a ridiculous idea back then, few people had air conditioning, and things only cooled down in the city late at night. Further, because of the various ethnicities in the neighborhood, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and punks spent much of their day at night, specifically in the park. I remember one evening strolling home from a debauch at about four am and seeing two old men playing dominoes on one of the park’s benches. The first night of the curfew was to be August 8th and all hell literally broke loose. The riot lasted until 2 or 3 am and everyone was involved, little old ladies got water for the rioters, local tavern owners joined with patrons to beat on police officers, and wave after wave of cops tried to maintain order. The next day the city backpedaled hard and fast, withdrawing the curfew. The press roasted Mayor Koch and especially Gerald MacNamara, the commanding officer of the police forces. Especially when it turned out the entire event had been filmed and showed that cops had hidden their badge numbers to avoid official reprimands and that they had attacked first. Score Anarchists/Squatters/Lower East Side Residents, One—NYPD, Zero. We put everything we could find about the riot into Issue 3 and offset printed 3,000 copies and sold almost all of them. It all culminated in one scene for me when two short little legs came easing down the steep steps of the Anarchist Switchboard, it was Allen Ginsberg come to see what we were all about. The next several issues maintained the action orientation of the zine and covered the issues of squatting, gentrification and the attempts by housing cops to throw out the trespassers. A number of the writers participated in the continental gatherings and major protests, in Philadelphia and Washington DC and these were reported on in the journal.

The other global event that Black Eye found itself having to respond to was the fall of communism in Europe and the Tiananmen Square protests and riots. I remember watching the Berlin Wall falling on television and hearing the news reporter just crow over the fact that the East Bloc had decided to participate in the “Free Market.” I kept thinking to myself I wonder what hell is really going on? The answers were not long in coming, Black Eye had excellent contacts in Poland and elsewhere in the Communist Bloc through Neither East Nor West, a magazine published New York and very soon we heard that the desire for new Levi’s was a tertiary issue. People were fed up with being treated like pawns in the grand communist game; they were tired of being numbered, oppressed, tortured—the spark was freedom (as the Russian underground press samizdat makes clear), not access to expensive clothing and the yuppie lifestyle.

As time went on theory began to play a larger role in Black Eye and in many ways where anarchist theory is at in the United States in 2014 is where the writers from Black Eye progressed to over the issues through 1993. Black Eye writers hated the “Left,” hence there was a truly strange mix of anti-civilization, feminist, insurrectionary theory in the issues of Black Eye. The topics that these issues were hashed out in were occasionally nutty, in one essay on Vietnam Major Bellows reviews US foreign policy choices in Indochina and arrives at individualist anarchism. Edwin Hammer’s articles consistently critiqued the cookie cutter roles that civilization imposes of its actors. In one of my pieces I develop theses defining the activity of play in culture, politics and economics. Debates were rare among the writers, everyone seemed interested in their own realm of theory though Sunshine D. and Mary Shelley actively debated feminism in two issues, neither one giving an inch of ground. Though I think Mary got the last word in. A number of pieces were lifted from other zines and books that interested us. One notable example is a humorous and effective piece by bp ummfatik titled “Take Things From Work.” I can only assume that bp ummfatik is a nom de guerre. Suffice it to say with the death of the Left, the Black Eye writers were left to their own devices to try to make some sense of civilization. In this feeling one’s way through the theoretical dark, some thinkers and activists appeared to show the way,

We quickly found ourselves interacting with an eclectic mix of earlier theorists. Jacques Camatte, one-time amigo of Amadeo Bordiga and member of the Italian ultra-left communist tendency, proved to be an extremely important thinker and thanks to Fredy Perlman much of his most important material was available in English. Camatte had shown that Capital had effectively superseded the law of value and that through the global dominance of the wage relation that the human species had been effectively proletarianized as of the end of the Second World War. Both findings are central to the foundation of post-left anarchism—the death of class conflict, the triumph of Capital over the law of value. Perlman himself, while not essential, has also proven to be an interesting and original thinker. Post-modernism was never really explored nor utilized by any writer, though Baudrillard’s Mirror of Production, is still an important essay and probably the final nail in the coffin of Marxism. John Zerzan’s material, particularly the essays in Elements of Refusal proved to be seminal in identifying just what the anarchists were up against, civilization itself. Though no writer ever published an explicitly anti-tech piece, his work instilled in most of us a healthy distrust for the ideology and effect of technology on the species. The Situationists made their entrance into the general American consciousness via Ken Knabb and his Situationist International Anthology, which was given to me by my boss at work. He had bought it and read it and he was no radical. It was just the book to read at the time. The jangled theoretics of the group, which derived as much from Hegel and Fourier as they did from Marx, were occasionally breathtaking and many of us used their argumentative models to develop our ideas. We stole liberally from history and historians which fueled many of my pieces on the Jacobins (Crane Brinton), the Fascists (Alice Yeager Kaplan), Progress (Georges Sorel), and Organization (Jacques Camatte). We read and were alternately interested and angered by the Frankfurt School. Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment is central to an understanding civilization as it appears today, Marcuse’s work on the psychology of Capital (The One Dimensional Man) is the last word on alienation. No book written since has even come close to his rigid and critical eye when it comes to suffering, loneliness, and powerlessness in a civilized world. Marcuse also did an amazing job discussing Hegel (Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory) and revolution in one of his earlier works, though no one reads that now, as Hegel via Fukuyama has become the mascot of decadent Capital. Major Bellows attacked Fukuyama and I think did a good job critiquing the silly assertion that history stopped at the Battle of Jena. Everything was fair game and I believe that few political zines were as eclectic or as snarltooth as Black Eye.

So what was Black Eye? Basically a lot of fun. Black Eye was a group of friends trying to figure it all out in a place of conviviality and support. Black Eye did its best to push post-left anarchism front and center, to make people aware that the with the death of the Left, Life gets better, the chances for insurrection become more clear and the ways and means to produce a human community that realizes the talents of each of its members develops as a real possibility. Black Eye was hard work, we met weekly and I spent many Sundays as a Xerox ninja, as did Edwin Hammer, Joe Braun, et al. In the end it was worth it. I have gone on to write and edit several magazines, other collective members run art spaces, and one is still cranking out top-notch essays. And I will say I miss the whole thing, the late night discussions at the Veselka or Kiev restaurants, the smile of a friend as I discuss some crazy theoretical gymnastics, and the pride of holding a hundred hot-off-the-xerox-machine Black Eyes in my hands as I go to sell them in Tompkins Square Park. But that was then, this is now. Our ideas still resonate with much of what the Social Enemy has up its sleeve, but new theorists are needed as Capital and the nation-state become ever more fearsome adversaries in the battle for real freedom.

So I dedicate this Black Eye anthology to those of you who would take up the sword or the pen and make the writers and thinkers of Black Eye look like senile old reactionary codgers, for those willing to do so, the future is yours…

-Paul Z. Simons          Order Black Eye through the LBC web site

Black Eye anthology now available from LBC

black_eye_cover

Black Eye

[Publisher’s blurb]

Black Eye was a zine out of New York, and this book offers some of the best pieces from this fiesty, piss-and-vinegar, punk-inspired series. Pieces on living your life creatively at work, fiction starring John Zerzan, journal notes on the process of a budding anarchist leaving a Trotskyist group, the taking (and taking back) of Tompkin Square Park, the significance of play, and much more.

BLACK EYE was born pathogenic and perverse in a basement in the Lower East Side’s Heart of Darkness in the 1980s. Half a dozen comrades armed with even fewer weapons (besides pens and typewriters, a few cartoons and quite a few ideas) set out to upend this rotten yuppified, spectacular world and provide first-hand reports of its demise. Initial articles ranged from paganism to the poverty of student life to the confessions of an ex-Trotskyist. Fiction and poetry complement revolutionary theory and resurgent utopianism. Eclecticism continues to be a virtue, is desired and cultivated, a political gesture itself in an era of heterogeneity. The common ingredient is liberation.

BLACK EYE wants to corrode all your received ideas and cherished ideological assumptions. It will give you a BLACK EYE if it doesn’t open your eyes, and it might just set you on an adventurous path of zero-work role refusal and you’ll discover you’re a voluntary conscript in an army of conscious egoists practicing the permanent revolution of desire.

BLACK EYE is a proto-council of the marvelous.

Order Black Eye through the LBC web site

My Date With Sam Dolgoff

My Date With Sam Dolgoff

(a shared memory)

( Note: the “My Date…” series of articles stretches back as far as the mid 1980’s and was begun by an article written by a woman attendee at anarchist functions in NYC. Her article, My Date with Holly Near, is a brief fluffy piece about an outing she and the singer had which evidently ended in some very earnest and breathy sex play. At that time Holly Near had dated (and fucked) almost every identifiable female anarchist in NYC, and the article may have been an attempt to record this historic campaign for posterity. Shortly thereafter Bob McGlynn wrote his “My Date with Holly Near,” which is a fantasy piece in which he and the singer drink beer, go bowling, and then stomp the lungs out of a bunch of malicious bikers. By far the most famous entry is Bob Black’s My Date with Jim Hogshire, which is an account of the notorious evening of February 10/11, 1996, where Black, who was to stay at Hogshire’s place, had a falling out with his host, allegedly groped Hogshire’s wife, was threatened with an M1 rifle and then was shown the door. This resulting article is classic Bob Black, and the vengeful aftermath includes a court case that stemmed from an issue Hogshire had with the local constabulary regarding the legality of making opium tea out of dried poppies purchased at florist shops. Hogshire unfortunately still has not written what he may have been put into this world to write, the response titled My Date with Bob Black.)

 

Suffice it to say that by 1985 or so I had become an anarchist with all the attendant vices and virtues, I hated the state, I lived on the Lower East Side, I attended interminable meetings; I read much and worked little. The city had two operating anarchist groups that I knew of, and I was a part of both, the Libertarian Book Club, and the Anarchist Switchboard. There were a lot of folks through each of these, but mainly a hardcore group of about 20 souls maintained the beating heart of anarchy in those foul years of Reagan and his ilk, which proved the truism that in any society the scum eventually rises to the surface to be drained off by history. I had been friends with Lauren for several months and she had called, said she was on her way to see Sam Dolgoff and invited me along. I met her at the Anarchist Switchboard that March afternoon in a cold, pouring rain. She said that we should just walk to his apartment as, other than busses, no trains would put us anywhere near his place. I asked where that was and she said that he lived in a building for retired members of the NY painters union. There are dozens of these union administered retirement buildings throughout New York, and though they resemble housing projects, the insides are better kept, and they have built-in meeting rooms and offices, some for the unions, some for rent. The Libertarian Book Club’s monthly events were held at a large meeting room in a union retirement home a few blocks down Seventh Avenue from Madison Square Garden. Even then, and in spite of the prevailing political climate, the unions would let the anarchists use the room—it was pretty cheap too. Lauren had made it her business, at the young age of 20, of bouncing around New York and introducing herself to as many of the old time anarchists, the Dolgoffs, the staff of the then recently defunct Freie Arbeiter Stimme (The Free Voice of Labor)—the Yiddish anarchist newspaper that had been going since the twenties, Vilario—an old Italian gentleman who at one time was involved both with the Galleanist’s and (it was rumoured) also Malatesta. Finally she had met Mel Most, who it was believed was related to Johann Most—a cousin or nephew—who for years had been running an outreach and service agency for prostitutes working on the Lower East Side. So this trip to the Dolgoffs was just her doing her best to string these old time anarchists to the younger punk anarchist scene—I guess to maintain some semblance of continuity.

All Aid, Comfort and Protection

It had to happen, was only a question of time really, that somewhere some unlucky police/espionage/or military agency would inadvertently recruit and train an individual with a conscience of sufficient substance such that you can’t pass your hand through it.

It makes perfect sense that the Los Angeles Police Department drew the unlucky number. Without rehashing the history of this sorry-ass agency, the beatings of black motorists, with supervisors watching and applauding, the false testimony that convicted hundreds sending these poor folks to prison, and finally like a phoenix rising from the ashes leaving behind the entire sordid mess to once again come crashing down into the shit that these officers wallow in and call a career. Two steps forward, six steps back…

Enter Chris Dorner, trained killer, Navy man, and ex-LA cop who during a training run witnessed a training officer assault, kick and beat a homeless, helpless mentally ill man just for the fun of it–I guess. I mean I believe the LAPD thinks its fun because they sure as hell do enough of it. Dorner was thrown off the force and has now turned on his previous oppressor/employer in what can only be called a wage slave revolt of furious intensity, and deadly precision.

Therefore, I ask– I implore all anarchists who may find themselves in a position to assist Dorner to reach a country without extradition to do so, and to provide to him with all aid, comfort, and protection possible–before the law and order bloodhounds shoot him down in his tracks. And in the unlikely chance Chris Dorner reads this, your heart beats with mine and many others. If you can–stay alive to tell your story, either with words or bullets–Stay Alive!

MS#3 Contributors

Bob Black is author of many interventions, as well as a number of books, including The Abolition of Work and other Essays, Anarchy after Leftism, Beneath the Underground and Friendly Fire, along with the yet-to-be-published, Nightmares of Reason, and his latest work, Defacing the Currency: Selected Writings 1992 – 2012. He has contributed to many periodicals, including Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed.

Susannah Clemence. “Forty-odd years ago in a blacked-out West London bathroom, I was shown how to rinse a silkscreen. A bayonet-armed soldier charged above the slogan,

`DO NOT ADJUST YOUR MIND
THERE IS A FAULT IN REALITY’

I want to address the fault. To confront reality, we must see it as it is — that is the function of my art.”

Chuck Dodson. “Self-taught critical thinker, into mixing creatively intelligent surrealism with decolonization awareness. WalkiNg with post-left anarchist critique (tho realizing the value of confrontational nonviolent-orientations) and unsettling settler mentalities, via a self-theory of continual process-oriented “span-aRchy”; –keeping “spans” or informal bridges with aLL human beings (not roboticized machines), while systematically demystifying social control alienation tacts. A deep background in queer and youth solidarity dariNg, amongst a wide swath of other topics. Seeking not `revolution’ but evolution of mind-set, walking thru FEARs as a spirituaL path. (da Visionary Report is one of his projects.)

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.

Manolo Gonzalez grew up a child of the Spanish Revolution in Barcelona, before leaving as a refugee and ending up (by way of North Africa and South America) living and teaching in San Francisco. He will be remembered for his writings on the revolution and its aftermath.

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. He has recently translated Max Stirner’s “Stirner’s Critics” and “The Philosophical Reactionaries” in Stirner’s Critics, and is now at work on a forthcoming new translation of Max Stirner’s The Unique and Its Property.

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. He is now working on the long-overdue Post-Left Anarchy anthology and recently contributed introductions to Wolfi Landstreicher’s translation of Stirner’s Critics and the LBC edition of Raoul Vaneigem’s Treatist on Etiquette (Revolution of Everyday Life).

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.