Volume 2 of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings examines a series of explosive social movements in East and Southeast Asia of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that are largely neglected in Western circles, even among radicals—hence, “unknown” (though presumably not to the millions who participated in them). One recurring principal theme of the work, as in Katsiaficas’s previous writings, is the concept of the “eros effect,” which he takes in part from his mentor Marcuse: that is, the sudden eruption among participants in revolutionary movements of spontaneous, popular decision-making processes, genuine solidarity and cooperation, and the suspension of previously regnant social hierarchies.
Following the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 -- which started with the housing bubble in the US, in 2006, and then gradually developed into a full blown world-wide recession between 2008-2012 -- a series discussing politics and alternative political positions like 'anarchism', 'communism', 'individualism', 'liberalism', 'socialism', 'economy', 'ethics' and concepts like 'property', 'ownership', 'hierarchy', 'community', 'exchange', 'free currency', 'progress', 'evolution' and 'ecology', we can certainly say it is good timing.
John Zerzan is now one of the most well-known of contemporary North American anarchist writers and theorists, along with Noam Chomsky and Hakim Bey (and formerly, prior to his definitive renunciation of his already questionable anarchism, also Murray Bookchin). Zerzan is best known as one of the major proponents of anarcho-primitivism and green anarchy, along with Fredy Perlman and others. Beginning with his essays appearing primarily in The Fifth Estate in the 1980s (collected in his central and still most important work, Elements of Refusal, Zerzan has built an impressive edifice of documentation, critique and speculation ranging over the lifeways of nomadic paleolithic gatherer-hunters to the origins of symbolic culture and civilization to the intensification of contemporary alienation in runaway technology, hyperurbanization and the emptiness of everyday life in mass consumer society and post-modern culture.
There is a paradox to Marxism, a central contradiction. Like anarchism, it originated in the 19th century movements for democracy, socialism, and working class liberation. Its stated goals were the end of capitalism, of classes, of the state, and of all other oppressions. Hundreds of millions of workers, peasants, and others have mobilized under its program, aiming for a better world.
More than just an anthology of essays, Chris Crass's Towards Collective Liberation is a coming-of-age tale for the modern activist. Crass chronicles his growth as an organizer, illustrating how the rewards and challenges of being a college-age activist with Food Not Bombs has shaped his current endeavors in feminist work with men and anti-racist work with majority white groups. In tracing his own evolution as an activist, Crass examines his involvement in half a dozen activist groups, showing how current sociopolitical issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US wars abroad are linked to struggles at home.
This year, Black Powder Press released a compilation of essays by Seaweed, an author whose writings I have enjoyed for years, which reimagine land-based struggles and propose building autonomy from a regional perspective. Land and Freedom is Seaweed’s first published book. The compiling of these nine essays has really helped me to hash out some of the core ideas and theories behind their writing.
Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles is a collection of 10 essays edited by the Squatting Europe Kollective (SqEK). SqEK is a network of activists and scholars that formed in 2009 and has been remarkably productive over the past four years, convening nine gatherings and supporting the development of numerous research projects. This is their first book. SqEK’s organization mirrors that of the movements they study: horizontal and open. Both the SqEK project and this volume have intertwined activist and political aims, and these authors see the production and dissemination of knowledge about squatting as an essential part of their activism. In the service of that goal, the book is available as a free download, but has also been published as a printed volume.
It’s a good bet a culture is in trouble when its best-known intellectuals start ransacking the cultural inventory of its ancestors and its contemporary inferiors for tips on how to live. The malaise is all the more remarkable when the culture in question is the modern American variant of Enlightenment rationalism and progress, a creed not known for self-doubt or failures of nerve. The deeper the trouble, the more we are seen to have lost our way, the further we must go spatially and temporally to find the cultural models that will help us. In the stronger versions of this quest, there is either a place – a Shangri-la – or a time, a Golden Age, that promises to reset our compass to true north.
So to keep the rhetoric and material in Modern Slavery alive with tales of slave revolts and insurrections, I inadvertently picked this book up while on my way through some airport, somewhere. After looking at the young face of the author, and reading that his alma mater was Harvard, and that he had received a number of prizes during his years there, my worries grew; surely this couldn’t be a book that demonizes slaves for revolt? Harvard is a primitive place – but could it have reverted even deeper into the muck of ruling class snobbery, inbred genetic mutation, and bad nicknames? Finally I relented and bought the damn thing – what the hell, its better than watching the movie on the plane.
Since its publication in 1844, Max Stirner’s book Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum (entitled The Ego and Its (or His) Own in the currently available English editions) has rarely been dealt with on its own terms. When not simply suppressed, it has been misrepresented or used as a foil to promote agendas foreign to it. Alfredo Bonanno described it well in his book Max Stirner when he says, “The first duty toward Stirner: incomprehension.” Certainly, the few books written about Stirner and his ideas in English in the past century have reflect this lack of even a minimal understanding of what Stirner was doing. This is what makes John F. Welsh’s book distinctive.