Modern Slavery Notes: New Journal on the Planet!

Welcome to Modern Slavery #1. The first full issue of this journal has now taken half a decade to come to fruition. It’s been a struggle on many fronts to turn the original impulse and idea into reality. But from here on there’s no turning back and we refuse to be stopped!

The Modern Slavery project is a direct successor to previous C.A.L. Press projects. These include the magazine Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (published since 1980, and now produced by an independent collective since 2006), the North American Anarchist Review (published for a few years in the ’80s), the Alternative Press Review (another magazine, published from 1993 well into the 2000s, with a web site that’s still occasionally updated at both &, and the C.A.L. Press book publishing project (with titles including Future Primitive, Anarchy after Leftism and Elements of Refusal).

[pullquote]The original idea for this new journal was to provide a space within the libertarian and anarchist milieu for the publication of some of the really important, critical and creative material that has too often fallen into the cracks between what will fit into the inadequate spaces available in libertarian periodicals and what has been publishable in book form.[/pullquote]

The original idea for this new journal was to provide a space within the libertarian and anarchist milieu for the publication of some of the really important, critical and creative material that has too often fallen into the cracks between what will fit into the inadequate spaces available in libertarian periodicals and what has been publishable in book form. Most of us probably already know that there are far too few libertarian and anarchist periodicals in the first place. Of those that exist most are infrequent, small and undependable. And of those that do publish more than one issue, many have very narrow editorial conceptions, excluding even the possibility of presenting much new, original and creative material – which also tends to result in restricting their availability to tiny circulations of the like-minded. But even for those that are open to publishing the most important and exciting material, the ability to present more than short essays, reviews and other material is lacking due to limitations of format, space and frequency of publication. To make this sad situation even worse, libertarian book publishing is largely in the same situation. A relatively small number of very small publishers exist (like C.A.L. Press itself, with only three titles in print) that usually cater to very narrow editorial niches, along with even fewer larger libertarian publishers. The smaller publishers have perennial problems with funding and distribution, while the larger publishers tend to function as ideological gate-keepers preventing more creative and challenging material from appearing in editions that might get more circulation, in favor of mediocre material that often promotes popular ideologies – often whether or not they have any significant libertarian content, coherence or value. You know this stuff. It’s often, though luckily not always, poorly written, poorly edited and poorly produced. It includes boat-loads of uncreative, uncritical material pushing a full spectrum of left and right-wing ideologies, like social democracy, liberal feminism, identity politics and postmodernism. At best it’s provided with thin libertarian coatings. At worst with heavy-handed ideological pronouncements that can be mistaken as (or occasionally actually are) Leninist, Trotskyist, Stalinist or Maoist in inspiration.

Within this situation, where can anyone writing critical, coherent and insightfully anti-ideological libertarian essays, reviews, fiction and commentary publish anything of substantial size? Even 10-page essays or 5-page reviews have few potential venues for publication now. What about the 20 to 50-page essays, the 10 or 20 page reviews, short monographs, and anything else of extended length? Not a chance! And just because an author has a well-written book-length text ready for publication doesn’t mean it can or will be published, either. (The first few issues of Modern Slavery will feature several authors whose books remain unpublished for reasons entirely unrelated to the importance and quality of their writing.)

The original concept for Modern Slavery included a roughly 200-page, perfect-bound oversize journal format oriented towards people who enjoy reading and who aren’t afraid to dive into longer texts that are exciting, intelligent and well-written. In order to remove any possibility or appearance of competition with the now separate and independent Anarchy magazine project, the intention was to avoid newsstand distribution, keep the graphic design simple, severely limit artwork and photos, and avoid publishing any material on the shorter side. The planned format was actually intended to be something not yet too far from what you’ll find in this first full issue. However, since the Anarchy collective has recently decided to end its newsstand distribution and shrink its circulation, Modern Slavery will instead seek (limited) newsstand distribution, include more complex graphic design and more artwork and photos, while attempting something more of a balance between longer and shorter contributions in future issues. The changes in direction will probably become more clear as future issues appear. What won’t change will be our commitment to publication of quality writing and art.

Our orientation is open – and encouraging – to new libertarian practices, ideas, styles and tropes, as long as they don’t merely reproduce or recycle ideological calls to enslavement in any form. And as long as they are written and conveyed in manners likely to be understood and enjoyed – not in tortured postmodernist verbiage or academic-speak. Even serious and complex analyses and critiques can be readable!

In this issue

The focus of this issue and every issue will be on the history, theoretical analysis and practical resistance to all forms of slavery. But this focus leaves a wide latitude for approaches. This first issue begins with “John Brown’s Body,” co-editor Paul Simons’ reexamination of John Brown’s flawed but decisive assault on chattel slavery at Harper’s Ferry. Many historians now mark this event as the beginning of the North American Civil War. At the time it was a highly controversial outgrowth of a complex abolitionist movement that was largely anarchistic, as François Gardyn reveals in a sidebar piece titled “Notes on Abolitionism and Anarchism.” Among the interesting features of North American abolitionism examined in both pieces was the heavy influence of religion as both a source of and limiting factor to the fight against slavery. Henry David Thoreau defends John Brown’s attack in his “Plea for Captain John Brown,” originally delivered as a speech in Concord, Massachusetts, that in its force, boldness and eloquence inspired a wide re-evaluation of Brown’s (and his companions’)
acts inside and outside the abolitionist movement. Given his wide influence on North American libertarians of all types, Thoreau should need little introduction. But how many have actually read his words in defense of Brown and denouncing slavery? We can all learn something from a review of this historical address.

Following the historical re-examination of John Brown, abolitionism and anarchism, Ron Sakolsky invites us to fill in a gap that sometimes looms in anarchist theories and practices where “mutual aid” fails to appear. “Mutual Acquiescence or Mutual Aid” introduces a new manner of conceiving the absence of mutual aid as a presence of a mutual acquiescence by taking threads from Peter Kropotkin, Gustav Landauer and others and demonstrating their potential for fruitful intersection and use.

The serialization of Karen Goaman’s The Old World is Behind You begins with her brief introduction to the situationist influences on the anarchist milieu since the 1960s as she came to experience and know them personally. It then moves on to an initial explanation of her approach to an anthropological observant-participation method that she has used to investigate the post-situationist anarchist milieu through its publications, through interviews and through other convivial interactions throughout the 1990s. Future chapters of her text provide an overview of the Situationist
International, its influence on various post-situationist currents, and projects like Anti-Clockwise, Here and Now, Fifth Estate and Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed.

Wolfi Landstreicher begins the serialization of his Strangers in an Alien World with an analysis of “survival versus life,” the precariously “hard times” for all those living under the contemporary reign of the state and economy, and “the anarchist tension” that involves the attempt to live one’s own life in confrontation with this “imposed reality.”

Lang Gore contributes a unique reading experience in the first chapter of his novel, Hunting Seasons, presented here in its original alliterative verse form, whose poetic melodies can be a stimulating and refreshing alternative to conventional fictional techniques.

Bob Black’s “Beautiful Losers” returns to our major theme of American radical history, this time covering the IWW’s opposition to wage slavery rather than the abolitionists’ opposition to chattel slavery. By examining the historiography of the IWW from its birth to the end of the 20th century, the essay gives us a more accurate and complete perspective on the libertarian contributions (and limitations) of the IWW than many book-length studies.

Voltairine de Cleyre’s “Direct Action” is a classic text of North American anarchism, presenting a compelling picture of the practice, as she cites examples from history that include Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry and the IWW free speech fights as she moves from consideration of the struggles against chattel slavery to the struggles against wage slavery! De Cleyre was a central participant in the libertarian milieu from the last decade of the 19th century up through the first decade of the 20th.

Massimo Passamani presents a succinct and revealing description of Max Stirner’s libertarian, egoist social intercourse through his “union of egoists” in terms of “Mutual Utilization.” Here Passamani contrasts the immediate and direct interests and relationships advocated by Stirner to reified interests and relationships mediated by alien ideals, compulsory morals and childish fantasies.

In a draft version of an introduction written for the new translations of “Stirner’s Critics” and “The Philosophical Reactionaries,” Jason McQuinn provides an overview of Stirner’s central projects – the refusal of enslavement and thus the refusal of self-alienation – through the subjugation of all language use in his own immanent interests. “Clarifying the Unique and Its Self-Creation” presents a description of Stirner’s egoist method, its moments, and its many implications in order to extend the understanding of his largely misunderstood project.

Finally Émile Armand, through a description of his own “anarchist individualist” project, pursues a theme that could be more appreciated by all libertarians – that a life outside of slavery requires one’s refusal to think and act as a slave, that one “lives to the greatest possible extent in a state of legitimate defence against authoritarian encroachments.”

If you like what you see in this first issue, please consider subscribing early in order to help us publish regularly, with increasing print runs for each issue. US subscriptions are only $24 for 2 issues. ($30 in Canada & Mexico; $36 other continents.) Extended subscriptions are $48 for 4 issues ($60 & $72 outside the US), including a free copy of a C.A.L. Press book. Please make checks out to “C.A.L. Press” and send them to: C.A.L., POB 24332, Oakland, CA 94623, USA.

We hope you enjoy this first issue! We have definitely enjoyed putting it together! –Jason McQuinn

[Issue #1 Table of Contents]

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