PZS @ PSU

The pdx zine symposium was held this year in the massive gym at Portland State University. It was so much larger than I imagined. I met some really interesting new people, and saw some old friends I didn’t expect to see from the F-Bomb zine back in Tacoma.

Shawn Wilbur’s table is worth mentioning. He runs the blog Out of the Libertarian Labyrinth and had an amazing collection of vintage-style anarchist texts from the 1860s – 1890s, the golden age of anarchism, and pre-anarchist texts from as early as the 16th Century. Shawn is an ardent collector, archivist, and an impressive Pierre-Joseph Proudhon scholar. He carried a small collection of his own writings on the classical anarchist texts, mostly about Proudhon. I just assumed those texts were collecting digital dust in an online archive somewhere.

We talked about the famous “Property is theft!” maxim and I asked whether Proudhon meant to include personal property (like the backpack I was wearing) in that category. Shawn said no, that Proudhon was a little bit “sloppy” in that sense, and that Proudhon was primarily referring to land holdings. I walked away with a couple zines from his table, one entitled “Slaves by Choice: the discourse on voluntary servitude, or the Contr ‘Nu” written in 1549 by Etienne de la Boetie. (So I guess they are online but whatever that’s not the point.)

Shawn said some of his translations of Proudhon are going to be published with AK Press this year. He also put together the extremely long “Anarchist FAQ” hosted on lots of anarchists websites over the years.

PDX zine culture

What’s great about a fair like this is that you meet people who write their own zines. You talk to them. Then you haggle back and forth and debate. As I walked up and down these aisles I heard people debating about obscure comic history, about local folklore, the Beehive Collective was there, Radix Collective was there, Bitch Magazine, Independent Publishers Resources, Eberhardt Press, some people at a table called “We are Not Bored” were there, and a bunch of anarchists from other cities, even Britain. Local science fiction writers were deconstructing futurism, radical librarians were discussing digital archival etiquette. The new Stolen Sharpie Revolution was there. Nihilism, Anarchism and the 21st Century was there.

By the way Zen and the Art of Paranoia is an absolutely hilarious Portland zine about how everything is going to shit, right before your eyes, and you can’t trust anyone. Nobody, not even friends and family, or the kindness of strangers, passes the test. Descartes’ Meditations for the people. You can’t find this kind of stuff online.

I met a friend of a friend (he has a blog too) and read through his Baudrillardian travel zine, Utopia, over a burrito. After talking with the writer about some contemporary ideas in anarchism, I really wished I had some zines of my own to share with all the zinesters. I wished I’d put together my new Potlatch distro for the symposium.

Potlatch in the making

That it’s for now. Thanks Portland Zine Symposium!

Seattle was an explosive place in the 1970s. Perhaps you have heard of the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_Underground_Organization”>Weather Underground</a>, the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Cells”>RZ</a&gt;, <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Brigades”>Red Brigades</a>,the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnot_gang”>Bonnot Gang</a>, <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friends_of_Durruti_Group”>Friends of Durruti</a>, <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Angry_Brigade”>Angry Brigades</a>, and <a href=”http://www.baader-meinhof.com/”>Baader-Meinhof gang</a>, and other urban guerrilla groups in Europe and North America. Very few people have heard of the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Jackson_Brigade”>George Jackson Brigade</a>, a revolutionary armed struggle group based from Seattle in the 1970s which carried out dozens of acts of sabotage in Washington and Oregon and delivered communiques during its years of activity.Last week at the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair, Therese Coupez, a former member of the brigade and some of her family spoke about the brigade and what the situation was like in the 70s and 80s. Daniel Burton-Rose, author of a new book about the brigade, <a href=”http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520264298″><em>Guerrilla USA</em></a>, was present too.

Therese joined the brigade after a young member was  killed while detonating a bomb outside a Safeway store. (In those days,  the Safeway stores were a prime target for revolutionary groups up and down the West Coast, she said.) She told the brigade what they did was wrong, and a young man shouldn’t have died for this mistake. To her astonishment, the brigade publicly apologized for the man’s death. There is probably more to the story here, but this is partly why she joined. No other guerrilla group at that time would have apologized for that, she said.

Therese said lower class people such as herself had a more confrontational outlook on life than the upper classes. In fact, George Jackson Brigade started out as a prison-solidarity group. Aboveground  organizers maintained contact with imprisoned militant activists. Ed  Mead, one member, was radicalized within the prison system, and became what was known as a “jailhouse lawyer” – a lawyer based out of prison. He knew while he was in prison that when he re-entered society he would wage war against it.

They attacked electrical stations, robbed banks, sabotaged infrastructure, blew up cars, and the whole bit. Unlike the European militants, however, they didn’t assassinate public officials. And unlike the famous Baader-Meinhof gang at the time which was all Maoist, the GJ Brigade was made up of Maoists and anti-authoritarians. Therese said the most important part of this group was the connection between  above-ground and underground activists, activists in prison and activists  outside the prison. This group was really focused on making the connection  between the prisons and the ruling class, Therese said. If you realize you are  a prisoner already, she said, you’re not afraid of the prison.

The largest prison in the Pacific Northwest is the Walla Walla State Penitentary in Walla Walla, Washington. It’s where all Washington’s Death Row inmates are held and executed, and where the only prison-based Black Panther Party cell was organized in the US. The Walla Walla Panther cell was closely connected to the Seattle Black Panther Party, which was the first Black Panther group to form outside of Oakland, California, the facilitators boasted. The history of that Seattle Panther group is not well known either, since the history focuses mostly on the more widely-known Chicago and Oakland parties.

If you look through the files counter-terrorist committees in Congress  were collecting at the time, Therese said, every single day there was some  kind of action in Washington. A car was bombed. An attack was made against  police. Something relatively simple, such as a lock glued shut as a form  of sabotage. Something happened every single day as an act of sabotage.

So Seattle was a pretty busy place. I remember hearing stories about the Fremont District, which is where my mother grew up. It was a poor artist neighborhood which is now totally taken over by condominiums. Queen Anne Hill, which is also now pretty posh, used to be a low-income district. Lots of experimental urban hippie communes existed there, most famously the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Family”>Love Family</a>, aka<em> Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon</em>. And of course Capitol Hill which still to this day is the center of Seattle’s gay lesbian community, was also queer and radical in the 70s. There are still low-income places, of course. But modern urban planning discovered that low-income areas needed to be divided by highways, or mixed-income areas, so that the proletariat does not concentrate itself in one or two areas and become organized.

Therese emphasized the large radical lesbian community in Seattle at the time. Her friends called themselves <em>Lefist Lezzies</em>. They were unwanted by the rest of society. She said they weren’t part of the middle class and didn’t want to be part of the middle class. And they couldn’t get into the middle class even if they wanted to. This was the impetus for the brigade for her.

I find the history of this group fascinating, so below are some links to writings from the brigade.