FE Letters Policy
The Fifth Estate always welcomes letters commenting on our articles, stating opinions, or giving reports of events in local areas. We don’t guarantee we will print everything we receive, but all letters are read by our staff and considered.
Typed letters or ones on disk are appreciated, but not required. Length should not exceed two double-spaced pages. If you are interested in writing a longer response, please contact us.
To the Fifth Estate:
Over the years, I have enjoyed and respected the seriousness and intelligence with which you have discussed the human condition.
I have also admired the graphic look of your publication. Now, as much as you may cringe at my saying it, I want to welcome you into cyberspace as a much needed addition to this now unavoidable reality (See FE #342, Summer 1993, “We Get A Computer and Hate It!”).
As is evident with the fact that this letter comes to you in the form of a 40 cent computer disk, I too use a computer. My usage is primarily for creating graphic images or, as I call them, computer paintings. I have been, and still am, a painter creating acrylic on canvas paintings.
Painting is not as directly affected by cybernetic advances as with photography, cinema, music and publishing where the end product is spewed forth from a line of machines. Painting, if you will, still requires the intervention of the hand. What is happening in the other forms of expression is the elimination of the hand except for import short cuts that are soon to be eliminated by voice navigation (“Hello HAL”).
The addition of a computer to both your uses and those of mine can be compared to a painter getting a new set of the best sable brushes. If you give those brushes to some one whose paintings are dead, their paintings will remain dead. Given to a painter with something to say they could make him or her soar. As you exit the Gutenberg Galaxy and enter the realms of cyberspace, your message, if anything, will be clearer not because of the technology but because of your basic intelligence and insight.
In all forms of expression, the need for the directed personal expression of feelings and ideas remains unchanged by computer advances. The elimination of tedium combined with new avenues for expression provided by your entry into the computer realms, will give you more opportunity to discuss (rather than to physically produce) your ideas.
Like everybody you are forced to swim in a pool over-chlorinated with dictators, capitalists, politicians, and televangelists. To refuse to use the tools available to you could be considered akin to fighting Hitler with bricks.
Fifth Estaters, your observations and ideas, even though I sometimes disagree with them, are valuable, important, and even urgent.
While the impact of the revolution in cybernetics may have negative effects in the Macrocosm of the earth, your microcosmic participation does not by any logical conclusion imply a pollution of your position. Your discussion and its dissemination are too valuable to be caught up in a discussion of where you are going to draw a line in the technological sand. The forces you struggle against certainly do not.
In fact, you might now consider how your ideas are to reach other minds in the expanding regions of cyberspace. I think it is time to consider putting parts or all of your papers onto various computer bulletin boards, those newsstands of cyberspace which, by the way, do not require thirteen pounds of paper.
The day when you decide to actually print your last Fifth Estate and then anguish about what to do with the left over copies may be closer at hand than you realize. In your microcosmic case, it could be argued, that your entry into cyberspace is ecologically responsible.
Further, the means of direct and individual networking and aspects of using interactive devices should be considered. Sure, the anarchists of the 19th Century used hand-set printing, but compared to hand copied books of monastic times, that is a far greater leap than your going to a Mac IIsi.
I believe it is always useful to consider the little and the Big pictures coldly. Have or will the usage of new technologies corrupted you individually or as a group? No. Does it mean that you will or must like the new technologies? Also, no.
Just as the brushes have never made the painter, so the means of publication do not writers and thinkers make. Without dissemination of your ideas, they will languish, of use only to the few. It is unfortunate but unavoidable that production and dissemination of your ideas must travel the same paths of those ideas you struggle against. But that fact does not detract from what you say except to one steeped in the dogma of the TechnoAmish—those who so righteously argue against using certain technological devices while they themselves use numerous technological devices.
Responsibility is an individual affair that does not need TechnoAmish priests any more than it needs Catholic priests. If what you have to say is what you honestly believe, then why whisper?
Highland Park, MI
E.B. Maple responds: Although Lowell’s letter is interesting, he hasn’t refuted my major contentions about the pernicious nature of computers.
I certainly don’t understand how new technology better “arms” us to fight tyrants or the empire. In the early 1970s, the Fifth Estate published a weekly newspaper with the same technology which the IBM Corporation recently declared “obsolete” and now refuses to repair. This forced us to accept a technology we neither wanted nor needed. What fights Hitlers better, a computer-generated quarterly, or a manually produced weekly?
Also, the paper doesn’t look better now that we’ve entered the computer age, it just takes less skill to produce. Previously, one had to hone a talent for pasting columns and headlines down straight or making boxes with line tape; now a machine allows one to do this with a click of a key or mouse. This may seem “convenient” in a world where no one stays at activities very long or where human skills count for increasingly less. I would think an artist would value acquired skills as an important human attribute.
We published the paper very quickly then because we had people committed to a social movement; now machines replace what we lack in human collaborators. Lowell is an imaginative painter who, along with his compatriot Stephen Goodfellow, developed an entirely new painting technique called micropointillism. Their paintings, like all human-based art, are unreproducible, unique. The computer, with its paint-box and design programs, elevates “me” (actually, the machine) to equal artistic status with them almost immediately if we all do “computer paintings.”
Computers signal the completion of capital’s diminution of humans to mere adjuncts of machines, servo-protein. An artist should realize this, one would think, even before others do.
However, even if computers allow us to produce our paper marginally faster (and that is all I can imagine it doing), shouldn’t our first reaction to them be one of repugnance given their larger and more central function of coordinating capital’s empire and war machine? Big deal if they’re quicker; efficiency is a concern of foremen.
Are our own little machines so beguiling that the horrifics of the larger “macrocosm” of computers become disguised? Doesn’t the merger of Viacom Inc. with Paramount (this week’s corporate intensification of “communication” ownership) increase the likelihood that all of those outside the mega-net will have their voices reduced to a whisper when corporations have further control of television, cable, computers and telephones?
I put this directly to Lowell since he mentions the end of print technology approvingly: The “microcosm” for your home, I suspect, will be that your wonderful child won’t be able to read the delightful tales that you and I read as children, and instead will sit in front of a screen watching electronic children’s books produced by a merger of Broderbund and Random House. That is, if he isn’t playing “Mortal Kombat,” where the latest computer imagery can give realistic depiction of hearts and spines being ripped out. Somehow, Treasure Island and Huck Finn seem a little more charming.
We’re all captives of capital and live out its imperatives even while fighting against them. I think the realization of this should precede any affirmation of the worst of what the system demands of us.
P.S.: Your letter contained over ten errors which were apparently overlooked by your spell-check function, such as left out words, incorrect synonyms, grammar and an incorrectly spelled neologism.
Ten Million Words
To the Fifth Estate:
I’m sorry to read that you have such a thing about computers. I figure I wrote ten million words on an old Underwood typewriter between 1959 and 1969, when I worked for the Canadian Press/Broadcast News in Toronto and Ottawa, and I thought I could never adjust to a computer. But I have found it great to work with. I can make all kinds of typing and grammatical [sic] errors and just go through and fix them up.
PO Box 553,
CPO Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada S4P 3A3
FE Note: The author above publishes the newsletter, The Barbed Wire, available from his address.
To Yawl at the Fifth Estate:
The Summer 1993 issue is only the second Fifth Estate I have read. It is just as enlightening as the last, but it has also inspired me to send a letter to the editor—something I have never done before. Reading the “We Have a Computer and Hate it!” article was like a trip down memory lane to my pre-teen years when computers were first being introduced to the office where my mother (an avid computer-hater) worked. Mis-directed resentment can be unnerving and so I am compelled to write a few lines on behalf of your lifeless enemy.
I am a computer science student (as you may have guessed!). My classes are largely made up of career-oriented students who are keen to land a powerful job in the business world. Needless to say, the majority of computer science graduates are building up this image of computers as “timesaving,” labor saving, more efficient, more accurate, etc.
But “computer pioneer” (??) Joseph Weizenbaum is misled if he refers to their “larger purpose” as being to “conserve America’s social and political institutions.” Following Goedel’s revolutionary Theorem of Incompleteness, the first computational machines were designed to explore the capabilities and limitations of algorithms and computational processes. That was in the 1930s and these machines were only theoretical. The development of tangible machines has actually expanded the scope of mathematics.
Unfortunately, the beautiful relationship that has since evolved between computer science and mathematics has been overshadowed by marketable applications such as word processing, accounting, graphics, automation, etc. But the TRUE pioneers of computer science were mathematicians who did not dream of Pagemaker, Windows and WordPerfect. Business demons did.
So please don’t hate your computer. It only follows instructions. Remember who the real enemy is: IBM, Macintosh, Microsoft, to name a few.
Factsheet 5 Defense
I must defend myself against the attack Erik Rensberger made against my magazine, Factsheet Five, in Letters, FE #342, Summer 1993. I appreciated reading his letter since I’ve received so few complaints about it that it’s good to hear about areas for improvement.
He complained that I changed the name from Factsheet Five to Factsheet5. Well, I think it’s more recognizable on the newsstand with my shorter title.
He said it’s smaller and I’m not running music reviews or reviews of anything else. I am currently running reviews of music and other stuff too. I’m not running reviews of computer-related media because I believe they have no place in a magazine about cheap xeroxed ‘zines.
He complained some publications were not included. I’m sorry but I just don’t have time to actively solicit publications that choose not to send review copies.
He complained there weren’t any columns. I’ve got stacks of excellent media-related columns waiting to be run but there just hasn’t been enough room for all of them.
Finally, Rensberger complained that I reprinted reviews from Maximum Rock n Roll. Yes, I admit it; I padded the first issue I produced. But now that the word is finally out, people know to send us ‘zines for review.
Love, Peace & Anarchy,
R. Seth Friedman
Publisher, Factsheet Five
PO Box 170099
San Francisco CA 94117
FE Note: OK, folks; you heard the man. Send him your publications.
FE Note: Karen Elliot is an international anarchist nom de guerre or nom de plume. The following was received at our offices addressed to her/him c/o The Fifth Estate.
Dear Ms. Elliot:
It is with much pleasure that I wish to inform you that you have been nominated for inclusion in the 1993-94 edition of the WHO’S WHO REGISTRY.
WHO’S WHO WORLDWIDE is dedicated to the recognition of excellence in business, industry and the professions. Only those individuals who have distinguished themselves through their career achievements are granted a listing in the WHO’S WHO REGISTRY and the opportunity to become a member of WHO’S WHO WORLDWIDE.
I would like to congratulate you and extend our best wishes for your continued success. We look forward to welcoming you to our distinguished roster of achievers.
Very Truly Yours,
Office of Public Affairs
Who’s Who Worldwide
New York NY
Drunk & Disorderly
Dear Fifth Estaters:
Jack Straw’s piece of speculative fiction about prehistoric use of psychedelics was mildly amusing (See, “Has Booze Brought the Blues?” FE #342, Summer 1993), but the speculations of the modern retroactivists who promote the ideology of primitivism are a poor basis for a radical practice that opposes the work-and-war machine.
As a user of both psychedelics and alcohol, I have to utterly disagree with Jack’s generalizations about these substances. These are well-summarized in the highlighted quote: “Psychedelics tend to dissolve the ego and enhance tribal relationships based upon non-hierarchical cooperation; alcohol encourages isolation and alienation by numbing the brain.”
In my experiences with psychedelics, small doses simply make me more daring and playful. Large doses do tend to dissolve my identity (my socially-defined self), but in a way which usually makes me want to be alone or to observe others from an aloof position which makes me feel that I am mightier than any god. I certainly have no desire for “tribal relations” while tripping hard, and the only “cooperation” I want is that others leave me alone.
On the other hand, getting drunk is always a convivial activity for me. I do it with friends, laughing, playing, joking, dancing. “Isolation” and “alienation” are far from this experience.
The association of conviviality and drunkenness can be seen everywhere. The Mbute went on expeditions together with the specific purpose of seeking out fermented honey and getting drunk on it. These festive adventures often lasted for weeks. The Free Spirits and Ranters met in inns and pubs where they got drunk together. In Britain, the drunken conviviality of the pub has frequently been the precursor to the festive conviviality of a riot in the streets (One British anarchist has talked of writing a pamphlet on the relationship between drinking and insurrection in England.)
Probably because alcohol was never sacralized the way psychedelics were, it has always been available to pretty much anyone as a means of intoxication. Because of this, attempts by middle and upper class people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to suppress its use failed, but the attempts were made, because drunkenness is a threat to the productivity necessary for industrialism.
Since Jack Straw brings animal behavior into his argument, I will as well. I have observed birds eating fermented berries until they could no longer fly straight. This appeared quite intentional since they could have stopped as soon as they felt a little funny. It is said that some giraffes will eat fermented fruit until they collapse in a drunken stupor.
My point is not that drunkenness is better than other forms of intoxication, but that it is stupid to valorize any form over another. All can be pleasurable and life-enhancing. All can mess you up.
Unless one can equate illegality with radicalism, none are inherently radical. And, none are “sacred” unless one chooses to view the world through the tunnel of spirituality. So, let’s enjoy whatever intoxicants we wish without sacralizing or demonizing any of them.
For crazed intoxicated living,
Jack Straw responds: Being a light/ moderate drinker, I hate to be put in the spot of “demonizing” alcohol. But Feral Faun’s basic point, that there is no essential difference between the two different modes of intoxication, is plain wrong.
Psychedelic substances resemble brain neurotransmitters. They tend to enhance perceptions, to open up interior worlds. Their effect is to dissolve boundaries. Even in isolation the user perceives a link with “the other,” be it other people, animals, rocks, etc., and experiences a lessening of the ego’s control.
Alcohol has no analogs in the brain. Its physical effects are dangerous and well-known. Its mental effect is to reinforce the ego. In small amounts, it induces relaxation and a lessening of inhibition; effects which I like. Any more imbibing, and one sees the “singles bar effect.”
A normally shy, quiet man may become very articulate and talkative, but not notice that his “object” of interest is not listening, or even trying to get away. Alcohol desensitizes one to social cues. When I go with friends to a bar, I find that after more than a couple of drinks, the conversations between supposedly anti-authoritarian people invariably get loud and competitive.
Have you ever seen truly drunk people dance? They stumble. I can’t count the number of times I’ve talked to people who went to concerts and complained later about drunks falling all over them. And, how many musicians have sung of playing while people just “sat there getting drunk?”
History provides more damning evidence. For example, Europeans have forced indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa and Siberia to cease their psychedelic practices, and instead turn to alcohol. Invariably this has resulted in destructive behavior, the break-up of community, and general social decomposition. Tell the Native Americans that there is no difference, Feral. (And liking features of “primitive” life does not make one a “primitivist.”)
Alcohol was (and is), in fact, sacralized. Remember “Christ’s blood?” Prohibition, which Feral Faun refers to, was pretty much limited to the U.S., and was less a ruling class-generated attempted suppression than a rear-guard battle by the declining rural/ small town petit bourgeoisie against the growing dominance of urban society.
Drunkenness a threat to productivity? Someone forgot to tell the pub owners in San Francisco’s financial district, whose most loyal clients are often the managers, or the ruling elites, whose social lives revolve around alcohol (and whose companies manufacture it). Drinking at times does lead to rioting, a consequence of lowered inhibitions. More often, it leads to stupor, a state Feral Faun seems to find commendable in animals, or to interpersonal violence, and spouse/child abuse.
To the Fifth Estate:
E.B. Maple’s article, “Will Marijuana Save world Capitalism,” FE #342, Summer 1993, concludes that we should restrict our legalization arguments to the civil libertarian tactic “demanding the right to get high.” Maple proceeds to downplay the agri-industrial uses of hemp, stating that such an approach fails to radically criticize “the commodities produced, the nature of work which goes into producing them,” etc.
Along those lines, Maple criticizes the New Age Patriot Newsletter for arguing that legal hemp will “create new jobs and wealth.” Maples argument hinges on the belief that “like all industrial enterprises” hemp “will be defined by low wages, deadening and dangerous working conditions and its own specific environment problems.” Taking this argument to its limit would require that we bring all manufacturing to a halt, leaving us literally—”without a pot to piss in.” In any case, the problem cited has everything to do with our socioeconomic system and nothing to do with hemp.
I hope Maple would allow hemp to compete with other agri-industrial products while we determine how to implement this utopian system. In this way, we might at least save our ancient forests for our grandchildren by generating paper and particle board from hemp instead of using trees. By substituting hemp-based car fuels for gasoline, we can reduce auto pollution by 80% and stop the addition of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere, thereby stopping the greenhouse effect in its tracks.
No matter what I say about hemp, we will never know its full potential or its shortcomings until we have the opportunity to grow millions of acres of the stuff over a period of decades. This requires that it become legal as soon as possible. We should use every valid argument we can muster, because what may convince one person may not convince another. For instance, one individual may not be swayed by the libertarian argument, but by its many medicinal applications.
Whatever the arguments, advocates of hemp re-legalization, need to get off their hind ends and do something about it. For all of this talk, the most important development has yet to happen—large scale action. Write your Congressman, subscribe to the New Age Patriot, or take to the streets, but do something if you expect hemp to become legal.
Bruce W. Cain, Editor
New Age Patriot Newsletter
P.O. Box 419
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
24 Hour Message Line (313) 563-3192
E.B. Maple responds: Bruce and his newsletter do a credible job of promoting the legalization of marijuana, but as he correctly indicates, the interest of the Fifth Estate is not in reforming capitalism, but its overthrow.
Preserving the (not “our”) forests certainly interests us, but reformism makes for strange bedfellows once one leaves the terrain of anti-statism and anti-capitalism. For instance, Cain’s Fall edition offers free copies of the far right, anti-Semitic publication, The Spotlight, to readers because it contains material on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
My concern was rebels becoming reformers who use the logic of capitalism rather than revolution; Cain’s letter only confirms my sense of the problem.
Dear Fifth Estate:
Re: Will Marijuana Save World Capitalism by E.B. Maple (FE #342, Summer 1993)
E.B. Maple nicely demonstrates that marijuana is not an eradicator of capitalism and consumerism. Much of today’s hippies, students and counter-culture use it to help them watch television and enjoy being consumers because they couldn’t do it otherwise. Smoking pot often helps intelligent people find they can have much enjoyment with Nintendo or at a suburban shopping mall.
The benefits of marijuana depend on how it is used just like any substance. If someone eats rice tonight, tomorrow the person could use those carbohydrates to off some cops, or to go to work as a cop.
The author makes a call for legalization of marijuana. Are we anarchists trying to abolish the industrial megamachine, or are we liberal lobbyists trying to reform our government that just has a lot of flaws? “Do we take what is ours, or ask that it he given?”—Chumbawamba.
I want their government to outlaw everything. Outlaw abortion, outlaw gun ownership, outlaw health food supplements, outlaw sunlight, outlaw eating and breathing so that every lung breather will have to stand up, take a subversive breath of air, declare our sovereignty, and eliminate this cancerous growth on our once beautiful body.
Last issue we reported on the attack on London’s Freedom and Aldgate Press offices by a fascist organization calling itself “C18” [Tales from the Planet, FE #342, Summer, 1993]. Patrick Hughes of AK Press Distribution, U.S.A. (P.O. Box 40682. San Francisco, CA 94140-0682) wrote to tell us that when he was there, “things appear to be back to normal” with the bookstore and the printing facilities.
The following letter comes from Unpopular Books in England and comments in part on the above situation.
A Bit Fishy
To the Fifth Estate:
As for C18, well, it’s all a bit fishy. Green Anarchist has done an interesting pamphlet, A Lie Too Far: Searchlight, Hepple and the Left, which basically exposes Searchlight, a leading anti-fascist organization, as an MI5 (British Intelligence) front.
When you remember how British Imperialism attempted to lead the anti-fascist struggle in the forties, it comes as no surprise really. It seems to me that the secret state is trying to run street fights between the right and the left: a) to keep themselves in a job after the collapse of the “soviet menace;” b) because the junior operatives are emotionally unstable creeps who get off on cloak and dagger work and violence.
I don’t really think they can see anarchy as any kind of threat. There was virtually no autonomous anti-war movement during the war in the Gulf. Now that the “pacifist” wing of the mass media are pushing for intervention in Bosnia, there is a complete failure to get to grips with what’s happening there. Domestically the campaign about keeping coal mines open has ended up being swamped with nationalistic sentiments.
All in all, not a lot to be cheerful about. Nevertheless, I like to think it’s the calm before the storm. In many ways, there’s a deepening cynicism about the central social organisations, even though there’s no positive movement. Perhaps that’ll develop.
Rather than spending our time moaning, we have been putting energy into the London Psychogeographical Association and historical reprints, like Black Mask. Some of this is quite wacky stuff, but British culture’s getting quite wacky.
The Times sponsored a conference on the monarchy, with people talking about abolishing it, or digging up some other aristo family to take it over. This would have been hard to believe a few years ago. It seems to be something to do with European unity. Constitutionally the monarch has to be a Protestant (just as the Prime Minister cannot be a Roman Catholic). So religion could become a bone of contention here in England, just as it is in Scotland and Ireland.
Box 15, 136 Kingsland High Rd.
London E8 2NS, England
FE Note: Use the above address for obtaining the LPA and a list of Unpopular Books.
A Diet of One’s Choice
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
This concerns a letter printed in FE #342, Summer 1993 from a prisoner from Arizona, Gregory Waleski.
In his letter, Gregory complains that his First Amendment rights are being violated due to revocation of his vegetarian diet. Could you please let him know that all the information he needs to file a complaint in federal court is contained in Daniel Manville’s “Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual,” I cannot write him from in here.
From personal experience, I have learned prison administrators do not like to have their petty restrictions on our rights exposed to scrutiny from the public, and thus our best defense is the public forum of the federal court. Gregory needs to do his homework instead of waiting for others to take up his cause.
He has another 12 years to do, and can become quite proficient in defending his (and others’) rights in that time. We need more people in the movement to take matters into their own hands.
George Peter, Jr.
Dixon Correction Center
In the Hole for the @
To The Fifth Estate:
I saw your letter from Warden Oscar Shade in FE #342, Summer, 1993. He is no longer the warden of the Racine Correctional Institution. He was forced to leave the job because of various schemes and scandals he was up to here.
Obviously you know that Shade’s letter is a goddamn lie because I have sent you all the [bad] “Conduct Reports” and “Memos” regarding my use of the circle (A).
You have the documents I sent, and they prove Oscar Shade is a lying pig, as is most of the prison staff here. I was disciplined on three separate conduct reports for using the circle (A) and it was not the “younger correctional officers” who confiscated my anarchist materials, but Capt. Linda Milliren. She wrote the majority of the reports and memos and seized all of my books, ‘zines, and other property for three weeks because she claimed that anarchy and its symbol are “satanic” and used by “white supremacists.” Milliren is supposed to be an “expert” on symbols and gangs.
Also, nothing I received a conduct report for was ever returned to me as Oscar Shade stated. The [prison] Hearing Committee either confiscated and/or destroyed whatever had a circle (A) on it.
For publishing a letter of mine in another magazine, I was given 188 days in the hole because it told the truth about the pigs here. I am hoping you and your readers can write letters of protest and/or petitions with many signatures to the following prison officials:
Dan Buchlet, Acting Warden
Racine Correctional Institution
Sturtevant WI 53177
Patrick Fielder, Secretary
Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections
Madison WI 53707
Richard Verhagen, Deputy Administrator
Division of Adult Corrections
149 E. Wilson St.
Madison WI 53707
Please explain to them what the circle (A) is about and ask why I am being punished so severely for using it. The more of you who write, the better it could turn out for me. Thanks.
Peace, Love and Anarchy (A)
Dale Austin 76660
Sturtevant WI 53177
Peltier Would Be Dead
E. B. Maple:
I wanted to thank you for trying to find draft counseling and info for me. Although by the time I got your letter, I had already registered.
The deciding factors were financial aid for college and a mother with nightmarish visions of two F.B.I. goons coming to the door looking for her son, the dissenter.
Oh, well, there is some good news. There is a bill going through congress to eliminate selective service and registration altogether. Good news, that is, if you have faith in the government…ha!
Speaking of “great” government achievements, have you heard about Clinton’s new anti-crime bill? If not, it includes a five-year, 3.4 million dollar program to put up to 50,000 more cops on the streets. He also wants, among other things, an expansion of the death penalty to cover almost 50 crimes, including the killing of a federal officer. If this were in effect during Leonard Peltier’s trial, he would now be dead. Clinton says he is doing this because “the first duty of any government” is to keep its citizens safe; to keep them in jail seems more like it.
Mt. Morris MI
Dear Fifth Estate:
I have read the Fifth Estate, every issue, for the past seven and one-half years, and have gained much from some of the pieces. But I have waited until now to place a statement of my own in its pages. Not that I may be accused of “spectating” upon the Fifth Estate. To the contrary, the expositions of primitivist liberation theory have led me to initially (and I hope finally) reject yuppiedom as it was offered to me as the fruit of class privilege and my own disciplined efforts.
Because I am engaged in a struggle to create a viable alternative to yuppiedom and its twin, destitute oppression (the abyss of the “foiled”), I don’t have time to write the long, detailed response that would be satisfying to write after reading E.B. Maple’s “We get a computer and Hate it” article.
Your struggle against the computer parallels my struggle against the use of machinery to raise food—vegetables in my case. Both are puny struggles materially speaking, but cosmically, both touch ultimate reality.
Three years ago I sought out a tractorless farm in a remote region of the mountains in California where there was a group of people skilled in the manual process of raising food. I lived for two years without running water, and passed two cold winters (high elevation is cold anywhere, even California) in those mountains without adequate heat (the first with no heat at all). I once went two months with only two showers, and this while doing much physical work.
I know these conditions are only vaguely similar to those lived by many in the Third World, but the hard thing for me was the human isolation. I felt the so-called “alternative community” was not at all interested in really braving even the mildest material deprivations such as I freely chose. As soon as party time in the woods was over, people ran back to the cities for shelter and security during winter, fall and spring.
I did not choose to live in the manner I did for its own sake. I did so because it was the only way for me to be with people surrounding this farm. They are very special people who, to loosely paraphrase the poet Jimi Hendrix, “have been experienced” who are not trying “in their little world to prove that they’re made out of gold and can’t be bought or sold.”
This relates directly back to Fifth Estate’s critique of the quantum energy made up of the material and the spiritual or communal. Social gratification in non-hierarchical terms and the nature that we may all potentially participate in as peers, is the lifeblood of these special people.
In addition to my own inner development, I was privileged to see during this time the lives of 40- and 50-year-olds who have resisted technology intensely for much of their lives. Some chose to change their ways of getting along materially, moving into the techno realm of mechanics, combustion engines, etc. Others have stayed resolute. What I learned was a feel for the intense negative energy that is brought to bear by our society upon those who choose to placidly accept the “rigors” of a materially de-technified lifestyle. They have truly absorbed much pain from this negativity, and this pain often surrounds and scars them and hurts their loved ones, and scars them, too. Is the trade-off worth it?
Those of us who are serious must ask ourselves this. I have felt a touch of the isolation such a lifestyle brings, and I say with no shame that it is not for me. The reality which brings me sadness is not this reality of what I deem an appropriate lifestyle for myself. On the contrary, it has been a great joy and liberation to come to this realization.
What gives me sadness, and anger, is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If enough people would stop talking out of their asses and get sweaty together, humbly doing a service to themselves and the Beauty of Cosmic Creation (not necessarily Christian “creation”), we could all have a real good time together. Maybe I’ll see you someday out here in the vast countryside.
Dear Fifth Estate Letters:
Two things about FE Summer ’93 (oh, a rhyme…).
1) I enjoyed the Queer Anarchist stuff. My bi-dentification came before involvement with anarchism, though not by much time. Though my anarchism is presently armchairish, I see both parts of me as inseparable.
2) Factsheet Five: It isn’t the same, but I still buy it. When Mike Gunderloy was The Man, anyone who sent a large SASE would get gobs of glorious zines. R. Seth Friedman, the new editor, sez ya gotta produce and send a zine along with the SASE.
What if you don’t want to do a zine? Tough! I wrote Friedman about this because he thinks people who don’t include a zine are crazy. He responded to my letter stating that Gunderloy’s policy was much looser. If anyone cares about this, write Friedman and demand that the zineless not be penalized.
Anarchist or Fascist?
To the Fifth Estate:
Anyone interested in anarchism may be familiar with the name of James J. Martin. He is the author of Men Against The State: The Expositors of Individualist Anarchism in America, 1827-1908. First published in 1953, this study details the history of the individualist anarchist movement (Benjamin Tucker et al) within the United States. In addition to writing Men Against The State, James J. Martin also edited the Libertarian Book Club edition of Paul Fitzbacher’s Anarchism, and Max Stirner’s The Ego And His Own. All these intellectual efforts on behalf of anarchism suggest that Martin was once sympathetic to its cause. But then something happened.
While in a used book store recently, I came across a periodical called The Journal of Historical Review. Flipping through it I discovered the name of one James J. Martin listed on the editorial advisory committee. I doubted at first that it could be the same person who wrote Men Against The State. But after a bit of library research, I concluded that it was. What of it? Well, the Journal is a rather peculiar publication. On the surface, it appears to be a scholarly journal one would expect to find in a university library. But examination of its content reveals something quite nasty.
The Journal publishes work that reinterprets the atrocities of Nazism during World War II (historical revisionism). More specifically, the Journal of Historical Review is out to prove that the systematic extermination of millions of Jews in Europe never happened. For them it’s all a big hoax. So instead of six million Jews killed, it was really only thousands, hundreds, or none at all.
Now perhaps the Journal is actually intended as a parody or satire. One would like to think so. However, this possibility ceases to be tenable given the knowledge that the Journal is published by the Institute For Historical Review, an outfit linked to the anti-Semitic and white supremacist Liberty Lobby. In any event, The Journal and its crackpot theory of Jewish conspiracies is less important here than James J. Martin’s association.
How did someone previously interested in anarchism end up affiliating with such nonsense? Is there some logical connection between anarchism and fascism? Is anarchism a stepping stone into the far right lunatic fringe? Of course not. Anyone who knows anarchism recognizes that it opposes all authority and hierarchy, i.e., power. Therefore, anarchism is completely at odds with fascism.
Perhaps then Martin’s deviation is attributable to his intensive study of just the individualist anarchy of Stirner, Tucker, etc. Some argue that Stirner’s exaltation of the individual (ego) is a natural link to fascist ideology. But this strangled analysis is based on assessing only one element within Stirner’s work (or anarchism in general) taken out of context. What makes anarchism so unique and vital is the emphasis it places on the individual and community, unlike liberalism’s vacuous community or socialism’s emaciated individual.
All variants of anarchism, including Stirner and Tucker, incorporate both elements. The individual and community are inseparable in anarchy. This is why communist anarchists such as Max Nettlau, Emma Goldman and Murray Bookchin can laud and embrace Stirner.
So, the problem with James J. Martin is not that he took anarchism to heart. The trouble is he didn’t take it seriously enough. He must have gotten fixated on the individual and regressed back to liberalism, the true starting point of fascism. Then again, maybe he just got tired being an anarchist in a decidedly anti-anarchist world. Whatever the case, James J. Martin gave up the good anarchist fight and settled for a pile of shit. He closed out his career aligning with a crank cause. Too bad.
Yours in Anarchy,
The Summer 1993 Earth Island Journal, 300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco CA 94133, carried an article describing harassment by the U.S. Postal Service of Lynn Jacobs, author of Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching, and the letter writer below.
Post Office Sabotage
I’ve enclosed a couple of items that may be of interest to you.
The page from the most recent Earth Island Journal contains a brief reference to the experiences of a few of us grassroots eco-activist publishers with the postal service. To bring this situation up to date:
K.J. Hunter of the Chief Postal Inspector’s office in Washington, D.C. has lied about what had been documented in this case. He claimed in a letter that only one complaint of non-delivery of my newsletter had been received by the postal service at a time when more than 20 complaints had been officially documented.
I received a package that had been cut open with a blade, and the contents missing. Without bothering to look at the physical evidence, the inspectors claimed the damage was done by their mechanized equipment. They have repeatedly ignored my request for an explanation of how their equipment manages to wield blades.
In addition to Lynn Jacobs and the publishers of The Aztlan Journal, I have learned of others who have had similar mysterious experiences, including Karen Pickett of the Earth First! Direct Action Fund and Bruce Anderson of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Boonville, CA. It is interesting to note that all five of us have been publicly associated with or sympathetic to Earth First!
And, in a workshop facilitated by Darryl Cherney at the recent EF! Rendezvous, roughly one quarter of the 20 participants indicated they have experienced mail tampering.
In spite of all of the above, the verbal harassment, the cut packages, the losses in mailouts to such an extent that one publication was driven to bankruptcy and others face the possibility thereof—the postal inspectors continue to insist that there is no evidence of mail tampering that would merit an investigation.
I have initiated a Freedom of Information Act inquiry with the postal service and the FBI as a result of all this. I’m not too hopeful of learning much, however. As it turns out, the man in charge of the FOIA inquiry at PO headquarters is none other than K.J. Hunter.
The bullshit never ends.
The Wild Ranch Review
PO Box 81
Gulnare CO 81042
FE Note: Although our newspaper usually gets through the mails with little or no problem (in fact, over the years the local postal officials have been rather lax with us), our Summer issue delivery to San Francisco was delayed over a month. If there is anyone or store in the 941 zip code area who did not receive our last edition, please contact us.
Hong Kong Report
FE Note: The author was last in Hong Kong in December 1990 and January 1991. He also visited the mainland cities of Canton and Macao and the surrounding countryside. In Canton he did research on Chinese law and prisons and met with professors of Law from Sun Yat-sen University.
Dear Fifth Estate:
Let me begin about Hong Kong by talking about Britain—”perfidious Albion” as it has often been called. Don’t get me wrong. The British, as individuals, are friendly people; England is a marvelous place to visit, but the British are cruel and ruthless in their foreign policy. They don’t care what happens to whom, as long as they come out on top.
British rule in India gives an example of one of the key British concepts in foreign policy: “divide and rule.” When they saw the Muslims getting together with the Hindus to seek independence in the Indian National Congress in the 1940s, the British did their best to separate the two communities—by separate elections, separate places in the government, separate army units. They fostered a separate Muslim political organization, the Muslim League.
When their ability to rule India failed after the Second World War, they vivisected India by turning power over to a predominantly Hindu India and a predominately Muslim Pakistan. There is little evidence that the common people of India—Hindu, Muslim or Sikh—wanted the division. These three communities had lived in peace in rural areas for hundreds of years.
Partition of India brought politicians and their gangs to localities to initiate the process of what is now called “ethnic cleansing.” The entire citified Hindu and Muslim leadership—with visions of ministerships and parliamentary seats in their heads—went along with partition without question. Only Gandhi put up some opposition. Perhaps 500,000 people were killed by politically motivated hatred in what was supposed to be a peaceful transfer of power to an independent India.
This disaster was brought upon the Indian people as a result of decades of “divide and rule” policy. The partition led to wars and tension between India and Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh, which is essentially a basket case. If the original India had not been divided, the Muslims would have constituted about one-third of the total population—too large a minority to be downtrodden by the Hindus, who have progressively been asserting their domination over those Muslims who remain in the present India.
The Sikhs might not have wanted partition if they had not seen the Muslim example. Now their conflict with the Hindus has turned to violence, with the Pakistani equivalent of the C.I.A. doing its best to increase Sikh intransigence and to destabilize any political solution in today’s India. We are approaching the final act of the tragedy: a nuclear race between India and Pakistan with both sides at the moment concentrating on intermediate missiles.
The British played out the same game in Palestine. “Divide and rule,” that is, play off the Jews against the Arabs and vice versa. The Jews were permitted to buy up land and the Arabs were permitted their pogroms. When the chips were down, it was a pox on both of the two sides: One day the whole British government and army got out the bagpipes and marched down to the sea and sailed away in ships. This sounds like an anarchist’s dream, but the Jews and the Arabs began a struggle that has not ended even today.
Now let us consider Hong Kong. In the first place, contrary to what most people think, the British do not have to leave in 1997. The Communists in Beijing never recognized the treaties that ceded Hong Kong to the British and leased the New Territories. The British therefore had the option to abrogate the treaties and leave the next move to the Chinese. (The Communists had tried to take over Hong Kong in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution and failed.)
Someone says, they could turn off Hong Kong’s water. This is hardly the case. A large amount of China’s foreign exchange is earned through Hong Kong. It would be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Besides, the U.S. Congress would surely end China’s most favored nation status if China used force on Hong Kong.
So why did the British agree to turn Hong Kong over to the Chinese? For one thing, there has been a rising Chinese merchant class in Hong Kong; Britain no longer has been getting as large a slice of the pie. Reports say that the British Foreign Office proposed the deal to then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In return the Chinese could favor British trade and support continued British prosperity in Hong Kong. There was a “divide and rule” philosophy in this. Britain would divide the Chinese Hong Kong capitalists from the Chinese Communists and reap the advantages of the middle position.
In the 1930s there was a song, “You can’t make peace with the fascists.” Well, let me tell you, you can’t make peace with the Communists either. As soon as the British-Beijing joint agreement was made, the Communists started to whittle away at it and ended up by repudiating large portions. For example, in 1992 China “retaliated” against the British by stating that contracts made by the British in their final years would not be recognized. (The joint agreement had recognized Britain as having full rule in Hong Kong until 1997.)
The people of Hong Kong were dismayed and shocked by the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989. One day alone in 1989 there were over a million demonstrators in the streets of Hong Kong. Since the population of Hong Kong was estimated at 5.7 million, it was a huge percentage. The liberals, the non-politicals, the non-Communist left, and the few anarchists of Hong Kong were all in the streets. The traditional left—the Communists and their sympathizers—had become the right. One Hong Kong anarchist who I know even came to the U.S. to help mobilize support for the democratic students in Beijing and elsewhere.
The British as usual are willing to play with fire when it comes to foreigners. It is dubious that they could now reverse the 1997 takeover, but they do subtly threaten the Communists with this possibility. If the Communists were foolish enough to enter Hong Kong in 1997 with fire and brimstone, the British would not lose much. The Communists could not root them out since they would have to do the same to the Americans (who now outnumber the British) and to other nationalities. Besides, the withered octogenarian leaves of the Chinese Communist leadership are dropping to the ground more rapidly now. Who can say whether any will be left in four and a half years when Hong Kong is supposed to turn red.
Jamaica Hills, N.Y.
Hola Amigos de Fifth Estate:
What’s up! The alternative libertarian newspaper El Provo wants to initiate an exchange of ideas and materials to encourage liberation from the authority that oppresses the individual.
We will be happy to provide any information about Venezuela and our political situation that you request. Any materials that you can send us will become part of an anarchist library we are organizing.
Salud y Anarquia,
Apartado Postal 145
Barquisimeto, Estado Lara