Backbeat: Arm yourself against art
and publish your own free pile
Piles of plenty, piles of waste. . .
A pile of preliminary materials for a reading group: One essay exploring the continuity between Burning Art Schools and Other Songs of Love and War, by Gene Ray, and The Assault on Culture, by Stewart Home; with complete reproductions of the entire Ray piece, on the early-20th century avant-garde, and select chapters from Home’s out-of-print book, charting utopian currents since the 1960s. The idea is that art emerged historically to guard ruling-class values, and, ever since, an anti-art tradition increasingly untethered from the culture industry has come into conflict with capital and the state.
Also included in this free pile is an essay on the political commitments of the first-wave punk scene in San Francisco, based on my recent interview with Peter Urban, and Will York’s new oral history-style book on the city’s underground music scenes, Who Cares Anyway? Research at Undercommons Archive and Interference Archive heavily informed a section on John Zerzan, Negative Trend, and the New World Liberation Front.
Urban encountered Patti Smith and The Ramones in 1975, as a committed Marxist disaffected with the organized left in the United States, and embedded in the upstart West Coast punk scene as a revolutionary propagandist and organizer. He managed the Dils and Negative Trend, contributed to fanzines Starting Fires, New Dezezes, and / Fanzine for the Blank Generation, and authored the “AK-47: Know Your Weapon” column in early issues of Maximum Rocknroll. In the early 1980s, Urban shifted his focus to Irish leftwing politics, and today describes himself as a council communist.
In our interview, Urban reflected thoughtfully on his attempts to rally the scene around late-1970s labor militancy, political prisoners, and international anti-capitalist struggles, as well as the obstacles to developing greater political consciousness. Working on this piece, I laughed as I notated MRR back issues, so many years after first reading the magazine, finding it more instructive than ever. In the first issue, Urban admonished the new wave of punks that “nuclear bombs, imperialist wars, and capitalist austerity are not going to miss each and every mohawked head,” and concluded with this message.
The world is a battleground and we are all combatants. When the Zionists, hiding their fascism behind yellow stars, march into Lebanon to commit genocide against the Palestinian people, they are doing it with $1.5 billion a year in military aid from the U.S., and that money is coming from you. It is coming from food stamp cut offs, welfare cutbacks, higher college tuitions, loss of funding for the arts, etc. etc. As the bodies of Palestinians pile higher and higher, the dividend checks of the people who own the factories that make Sidewinder missiles grow larger and larger. Lebanon is your backyard, you have been drafted whether you know it or not. Like it or not, this is your war, every war is your war. Choose what side you are on, and when the fight begins, know your weapon.
Also compiled are a number of prints and drawings, followed by brief reports on direct actions in the Bay Area over the past year or so. In all it’s about 70 pages, spiral-bound, with riso-printed, manila envelope covers. Tabling with Oakland Printshop, I gave away most of the initial run at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair. Sliding-scale, free to forever: Write me directly to request a free copy, propose a trade, or to kick down some money for our little printshop. The Gene Ray and Stewart Home texts are online here and here.
Stay tuned for more issues of free pile, and go ahead and publish one of your own.