This is the first episode of FRR's new books podcast. Our goal is to discuss books(mostly fiction), especially where they intersect with our lives, nihilism, and anarchism. I(rydra) will be the most consistent host with a rotation of friends and others I find interesting broadcasting when we desire to. In this episode we discuss Milan Kundera's final novel, "The Festival of Insignificance." I began reading Kundera as a teenager and my fondness for him has only grown as I have slowly felt the effects of his writing, ideas, and brilliance sink into me over the years.
Snapshots from the History of May Day
May Day is one of the days on which anarchists celebrate self-determination and self-realization. People have lit bonfires to mark the end of winter for thousands of years; it wasn’t until industrialization forcibly disconnected people from the land base that nourished them that May Day came to be observed as a labor holiday. At base, May Day isn’t about labor: it’s about abundance. It’s about excess, pleasure, freedom—the burgeoning source of life itself. As a millennia-old holy day honoring the return of spring, May Day directs our thoughts to nature—a wild and beautiful chaos that flows through us and nourishes us, which we can enjoy but never control. Our joyous acts of rebellion do not point to a world in which workers are paid a little better for their labor, but to the possibility that we could sweep away all the forms of oppression that stand between us and the tremendous potential of our lives.
“The question is not: who has the guns? but rather: what do the people with the guns do? 10,000 or 100,000 proletarians armed to the teeth are nothing if they place their trust in anything beside their own power to change the world. Otherwise, the next day, the next month or the next year, the power whose authority they recognize will take away the guns which they failed to use against it.”
Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist is a classic for good reason: the drama of the story drives it along. Berkman’s mission to assassinate Frick is interspersed with effective flashbacks showing his development to that point. In the prison there’s plenty of conflict which makes you wonder: how can he survive 22 years? Can the prisoners expose their mistreatment and the scams of the management? Will the escape plan work? I loved the cover: a piano with a pick and shovel leaning against it as a nod the outside comrades who dug a tunnel for him, covered by Vella Kinsella ‘tinkling the ivories’. There’s also the odd bit of unintentional comedy, like Berkman’s puzzlement when he first comes across prison slang: ‘I should “keep my lamps lit.” What lamps? There are none in the cell; where am I to get them? And what “screws” must I watch? And the “stools,”—I have only a chair here. Why should I watch it? Perhaps it’s to be used as a weapon.’ [p112]
On Friday, May 3, 1968, several hundred radical students stared down a contingent of fascists outside the Sorbonne, in Paris. The day before, the neo-fascist group Occident torched the offices of a leftist student organization, leaving behind their call sign, the Celtic Cross. In response, radical students called for a demonstration against “fascism and terror,” steeling themselves for a fight.
Please find below the partial transcript of the “Marxist-Anarchist Dialogue” that took place on February 12, 2017, at the Sepulveda Peace Center in Los Angeles. This event featured a Black Rose/Rosa Negra member presenting on anarchism in dialogue with a member of the International Marxist Humanist Organization (IMHO) who preferred for his comments not to be reproduced publicly.
The year is 1871. Revolution has just established a democratic government in France, following the defeat of emperor Napoleon in the war with Germany. But the new Republic satisfies no one. The provisional government is comprised of politicians who served under the Emperor; they have done nothing to satisfy the revolutionaries’ demands for social change, and they don’t intend to. Right-wing reactionaries are conspiring to reinstate the Emperor or, failing that, some other monarch. Only rebel Paris stands between France and counterrevolution.
This time around, let’s fight for workers’ control from the start. Let’s create structures with checks and balances that ensure workers keep control. Let us not hand over power to a state that can institute tyranny all over again. We want anarchist communist organisation. Workers' delegation. Equable procedures. Bottom up organisation. It is 100 years since women workers began the 1917 revolution. Let’s do it again! The time for global revolution is here!
Laurance Labadie was born in Detroit, in the summer of 1898, the son of the famously affable anarchist Joseph A. Labadie. Jo, as he was called, neither pressed anarchism on his children nor seems to have done very much pressing or parenting at all, preferring to allow the Labadie brood space to learn and grow on their own terms. That they, to his disappointment, never found much happiness or success suggests, perhaps, that the anarchist’s aversion to hierarchical relationships is ill-suited to the business of raising children into content and independent adults. Though certainly independent of thought and action, Joseph’s son Laurance was anything but content. Even to those who loved him and considered him family, the younger Labadie did not inherit his father’s easy, obliging way. In her book All-American Anarchist: Joseph A. Labadie and the Labor Movement, Laurance’s niece, Carlotta Anderson, writes that he “bitterly disappointed both parents,” never marrying or achieving career or financial success.