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Red and Black Forum: Joe Hill

Date and Time: 
Sun, 06/12/2015 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm

2015 is the centenary of the death of the iconic Wobbly bard and martyr, Joe Hill, the man who Joan Baez sang about at Woodstock in 1969. The itinerant Swede, who fought the boss at every opportunity, was executed for a crime many believe he did not commit. He was also famous for songs such as "The Preacher and the Slave" and "The Tramp" and who, though his songs, helped develop a strong working class culture in the Industrial Workers of the World.

At this Red and Black Forum, Rowan Day will give a talk on the life an death of this giant of the IWW and the downtrodden. Followed by discussion. All welcome. Free.

Recommended reading - four short book reviews

Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy, and the Common Ground Collective, by scott crow. $26

I'm still reading this and having trouble putting it down. It's about an anarchist who worked with the poor black people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city in 2005. A collective (The Common Ground Collective) of mostly middle class whites, about 23,000 volunteers, came together to help rebuild the black neighbourhoods when the authorities abandoned them: a society without the State developed (well, yes, but with only a little exaggeration). This is a personal story of scott crow (no upper case) and his journey into anarchism and anarchist activism, as well as the story of the people of New Orleans and the Collective. In the book, crow uses the term 'emergency heart love', which sort of coincides with Chomksy's use of the term 'expanding the floor of the cage'. The author talks about his major influences: anarchism from the Spanish Revolution, the Black Panther Party, and the Zapatistas.

While I can understand the references to the Spanish Revolution and the Zapatistas, the reference to the Black Panthers and their often sexist behaviour goes without critique, as does their sometime fascination with Nechaev's authoritarianism. What he does get from them is their dedication to mixing it with the poor, gaining their trust by meeting their practical needs (education, health etc). There's a lot of 'philosophy confronting reality' throughout the book, and achieved in a very easily digestible way. It's really great, but what I don't get, despite the reference to 30's Spain, is the lack of dealing with the larger organisational questions that anarcho-syndicalism answers. Well, there's still a bit to go in my reading of the book, so maybe all will be revealed! Just a note, I'm reading the first edition, but the updated second is at Jura, too.

Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe, by Javier Sethness-Castro. $19

Well, where do I start? This is a book that will be liked by all the anarchists who still have an inclination towards Marx or marxism - of what is sometimes considered the less authoritarian sort. I don't hold that there is such a beast, but others do. In the case of this author, he constantly refers to the Frankfurt School people, Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, as well as Marx, Gramsci. The odd thing is that, in the end, he advocates a sort of anarcho-communism, so he also occasionally makes mention of Chomsky or Bookchin. How one gets from Marx to anarcho-communism via Adorno beats me, but maybe others can see something that I can't. However, on the brighter side, the author does put a good case about the unfolding climate catastrophe and the need for urgent action. He also provides a good, if too brief, critique of liberal campaigners for climate sense.

Government in the Future, by Noam Chomsky. $15

This is a great little book for someone who wants to know what Uncle Noam says about better ways to organise society, and the basic thoughts that underpin those ideas. So there's a bit of philosophy in there, but not too much for the novice. For the more advanced, the book gives a good road map towards several foundation thinkers and some practical examples of what actual people actually did strive to achieve. The references to Marx still puzzle me a bit, but I think Chomsky talks more about what Marx wished for an end point of a revolutionary process. Unfortunately, Marx always confused means and ends, and could never get rid of his Statist/authoritatian methods to achieve the liberatory ends. The book is more of a pamphlet, and is presented in a lecture style, as it was originally given as a lecture, so that's no surprise. However, it is an easy read.

Adbusters: Manifesto for World Revolution, by Adbusters Foundation. $12

This is a beautifully produced magazine that I find enthralling in its poetic, imaginative use of imagery. Visually stimulating and often very confronting, but so wonderfully done - amazing, really. Like the image of a naked woman lying on her side, cuddled up to a.....pregnant man. What startling imagery....makes one think. Now, I do have some reservations about the politics of the Adbusters crew, no matter how much I do admire their work. There is still that troubling 'ephemeral anarchism' about them...so it's fine to have a critique, and it's fine to promote, in fact, initiate Occupy Wall Street, but where is the organisational structure/mechanism to get us from 'here', which they so well describe and critique, to 'there', a society in revolutionary transformation? Still, I always take a look and have a read - well worth the visit.