Potlatch in the making

The Potlatch Library is going to be an anarchist distro focusing on the history of the contemporary underground rave scene, and other subversive subcultural phenomenon. I’ve gone to a number EDM festivals in the past years (the regional Burning Man kind), and though I don’t write about it much, rave culture is something that very much has been a part of my “recreational” life since high school. It’s part of my whatever-singularity persona. So a good distro for me is one centered around anarchism and the rave scene. For the past month I’ve been planning this out. Thanks to all who are helping (anarchyplanet.)

You can read about the potlatch culture through Wikipedia.

Yupik Potlatch Dance

Before the Situationist International, there were several other French anarchist literary groups: the Lettrist International, Heatwave, Cobra, The Council for the Liberation of Everyday Life. (These can all be viewed on the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture on Virginia Tech’s website.) One of the pre-situationist texts was a short-lived Lettrist bulletin in 1954 called Potlatch, more of which is available through nothingness.org‘s archives. It seems they chose the name Potlatch because they were enamored with the history of the original practice, as probable evidence of an early, fragmented, anarchist anthropology.

The 1954 Potlatch was simple, to the point, and not difficult to read. The new Potlatch should be similarly poignant, but I want to avoid the “bulletin” or “periodal” model since my life now is so fast-paced that sticking to a time-sensitive schedule is difficult and potentially sloppy for me.

Police shutting down the 2009 "Hard LA" party due to gate jumpers.

Compared to the 1990s, states have a different approach to rave parties nowadays. Most are commercial concerts just like anything else, inside a corporate stadium. But many are still underground, and many still have a message — an actual message not just “love and light” or whatever the corporate Electric Daisy Carnival motto was this year.

As if Kalle Lasn had his finger on the pulse of contemporary trends in anarchism, last month’s Adbusters magazine featured the Burning Man festival and commented on similarities with summit protests, such G20 resistance and Olympic resistance. “Protest carnivals.” (Not to give Adbusters too much cred — they sell “revolutionary” tennis shoes for fucksake!) The author of the Utopia travel zine brought that most recent Adbusters issue to my attention last week at the zine symposium.

“In the Mad Max future,” he explained,

“…having a party will be like having a protest. To occupy space is already today a form of protesting. The music festivals are like cities that pop up temporarily and create their own rules. They even have their own temporary zip code so communication can get in and out.”

the Reclaim the Streets movement

So what is Potlatch going to print?

As far as seminal texts in the anarchism-rave genre go (a limited genre indeed) there are a few good anarchist texts about rave culture and rioting in Europe by the VOID Network I’m eager to print. The story of UK’s Reclaim The Streets movement ought to be retold with illustrations. (Reclaim the Streets was in response to the criminalization of rave parties.) Plus there are many forgotten underground zines from the 1990s rave era that ought to be reprinted. Ones with funky titles like “CHA” by JJ Jellybean and “Phreakzine” by Mouse, or the Milwaukee “Massive” zine.

Then I have some writings of my own — ex.g. a detailed and illustrated introductory history of the potlatch culture in the from a pro-situationist perspective, and several pro-situationist commune zines illustrated for quick reading and instant gratification, to take a consciousness-raising attitude. My goal is to connect the dots between the rave culture and the anarchist milieu, and to re-introduce zine culture to the Burn community and rave scenes since this was a big part of the culture in the 90s.

I want some concrete ideas to focus on under the Potlatch moniker. I am not an expert in Pacific Northwest indigenous history, but I think laying out and designing history zines about indigenous culture is a smart idea. Creating history zines about indigenous resistance movements post-WWII, such as the Mohawk defense of Kanesetake in 1990, would be both educational and relevant.

Let me know if you have any comments or ideas on the project.