Open Letter Re: Black Rose Books’ plan to publish a Murray Bookchin “Festschrift.”

  • Posted on: 10 September 2019
  • By: thecollective
We, the undersigned, endorse this letter and support its demands: Lifestyle Anarchist News Section

From Reddit r/Communalists

The following letter was sent through the Institute for Social Ecology mailing list this morning. I'm posting this letter here so that the information in the letter is made widely available, and can be freely and transparently discussed.

August 2019

Dear social ecologists, fellow activists, colleagues, and friends,

As the trustee of my father’s work, I am writing to ask your help in addressing difficulties posed by Dimitri Roussopoulos and his Montreal-based Black Rose Books publishing house.

My father was Murray Bookchin and I have been the trustee of his work since his death in 2006. As many of you know, my father actively advocated for an egalitarian, non-hierarchical, ecological society through his two dozen books and hundreds of articles.

For most of his life, my father lived on an extremely low income. He was a lifelong, passionate revolutionary and he never expected or wished to become wealthy from his writings. But he also didn’t expect to be cheated by a supposed comrade on the Left.

Yet, that is exactly what happened over a period of years after he entered into a relationship with the left/anarchist publisher Black Rose Books in Montreal and its principal owner, Dimitri Roussopoulos.

Despite signed contracts calling for him to be paid royalties for a handful of books published by Black Rose, for most of his association with Black Rose Books—an association which continued for many years—my father was put in the position of essentially begging Dimitri Roussopoulos for royalty statements and even token amounts of royalties. Roussopoulos and Black Rose, alone, of all the publishing houses my father worked with, refused to honor his contracts and pay my father, who sometimes had almost no other source of income except royalties. Beyond a few initial royalty payments decades ago, my father was glad-handed and largely ignored when he asked Roussopoulos for an accounting of his royalties and payments over many years.

In the past, when confronted with his failure to pay other authors, Roussopoulos has made various excuses about how most Black Rose writers do not expect to be paid, or how he could not reach certain authors. In the case of my father, he stated that Bookchin understood that Black Rose had financial difficulties and that their relationship was resolved, implying that my father accepted non-payment. This is simply untrue.

Here is just one example from a letter my father sent to Roussopoulos on 19 November 1999 asking for an accounting of royalties owed and payments:

“I am writing this note to remind you I have not received from Black Rose any royalty statements for the sale of my books for at least a year and a half. I’m ill, I’m broke and at 79, I’m old – and badly in need of whatever monies I can get. Could you please send me what is due to me as well as a report on the status of my books…”

Long after Roussopoulos claims that his relationship with Murray was resolved, my father resented the fact that because Roussopoulos was a publisher from another country, Canada, it was almost impossible for my father to have legal recourse to obtain the money he was owed and which he desperately needed to survive. In the years before he died, he insisted that Roussopoulos was the one person that he did not want to attend any celebration of his work or memorial of his life.

As you can imagine, my father would be mortified to learn that Black Rose is now planning a so-called Murray Bookchin “Festschrift,” apparently to celebrate 50 years of being in the publishing business. This new, planned book of essays about Murray can only be viewed for what it is: another effort by Black Rose to exploit my father’s name for its own profit. Most of the writers most familiar with my father’s work: Dan Chodorkoff, Brian Tokar, Chaia Heller, Federico Venturini, and authors of the two most important books about Bookchin, Andy Price and Damian White, have all declined to participate in this project.

Several months ago, I asked the coeditor of this planned volume, Bruce Wilson, to please take into consideration the views of Bookchin’s family and halt this project, which is deeply upsetting to us. At a certain point, he simply stopped answering my emails.

Before my father died, he very intentionally established a Trust specifically to safeguard the integrity of all of his work and to protect the copyrights, which he ultimately wished to be held by his granddaughter. In contrast to the many other publishers I’ve dealt with, Roussopoulos and Black Rose have never once contacted his estate, despite bringing Murray’s books in and out of print, and using his articles at whim in various collections. Roussopoulos and his protégé, Nathan McDonnell, have remained unresponsive to requests from his estate about accounting. Most recently, in March, my daughter wrote to Roussopoulos and McDonnell asking about royalties because she would like to use them to help support her grandmother Bea Bookchin, Murray’s former wife and closest friend, who worked alongside Murray for 57 years supporting and contributing to his work. My daughter’s communication was ignored.

This kind of authoritarian, patriarchal behavior goes against everything that social ecology stands for. I am writing to ask you to please consider these facts and urge Roussopoulos and Black Rose Books not to proceed with this “Festschrift” project, to stop pirating my father’s work, and to present an audited accounting and pay back royalties to the Trust. I urge others in the broader left to boycott any future project by Roussopoulos and Black Rose Books until this matter is resolved.

If our movement is to have any credibility when it comes to espousing such concepts as mutual aid, respect for individuals and communities, ethical social relations, feminism, and anti-authoritarianism, surely we must practice the values we espouse and not allow such behavior to go unchecked. While it pains me to have to write this letter publicly, this newest insult to my father’s memory at the hands of Roussopoulos leaves me no other choice. I ask you to please consider endorsing this letter and sharing it widely as a way of showing your support.

I can be reached at bookchindebbie@gmail.com for questions or further information. Sincerely, Debbie Bookchin and the Bookchin family

We, the undersigned, endorse this letter and support its demands:

David Graeber, Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics

Meredith Tax, writer and activist

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT

Molly Crabapple, author and illustrator

Allan Antliff, Professor of Art History and Visual Studies, University of Victoria, Canada

Marisa Holmes, Occupy organizer, activist, and filmmaker

Kelly Roache, municipalist organizer and writer

Dr. Shannon Brincat, senior lecturer, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

Aaron Vansintjan, writer, municipalist organizer, Co-editor for Uneven Earth

Lisa Fithian, Occupy organizer and labor and human rights activist

Dr. Martin Weber, Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland, Australia

Dan Chodorkoff, co-founder, Institute for Social Ecology

The Institute for Social Ecology (ISE) Board of Directors

Eleanor Finley, writer, activist and PhD candidate University of Massachusetts

Mason Herdson-Hord, municipalist organizer and writer

Katie Horvath, municipalist organizer and writer

Dr. Federico Venturini, University of Udine, Italy

Dr. Damian White, Dean of Liberal Arts, RISD, author Bookchin: A Critical Appraisal

Dr. Laura Roth, activist and researcher

Andy Price, author, Recovering Bookchin: Social Ecology and the Crises of our Times

Dr. Chaia Heller, ISE Board member and author, Ecology of Everyday Life

Kate Shea Baird, member Executive Committee, Barcelona en Comú

Carne Ross, author, The Leaderless Revolution

Dr. Andrew H. Lee, Curator, New York University

Dr. Marina Sitrin, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY

L.A. Kauffman, organizer and movement historian

Dr. Damian Gerber, author, The Distortion of Nature’s Image

Dr. Ruth Kinna, Professor of Political Theory, Loughborough University, editor, Anarchist Studies

Dr. Dana Ward, Professor Emeritus of Political Studies, Pitzer College, editor, Anarchy Archives

Dr. Vijay Kolinjivadi, Canadian Society of Ecological Economics (Research & Education Officer)

Dr. Mark Lance, Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University

Dr. Pep Puig, emeritus, Autonomous University of Barcelona, engineer, green activist

Helen Arnold, French translator of Bookchin’s work

Daniel Blanchard, French translator of Bookchin’s work

Comments

who?

*googles murray bookchin

I'm sorry that you are going through this.

Dimitri Roussopoulos -- of his apparently first among equals Montreal-based Black Rose Books publishing house -- has a reputation as a rip-off shit and dirtbag business creep going back to the 1980's. He's something like a north-of-the-border Ramsey Kanaan, only worse.

Best of luck remedying the situation.

What did Ramsey do?

Rihanna - Bitch Better Have My Money (Explicit) (Audio)
https://youtu.be/qHkpGJcB0HU

roussopolous's reputation for being a lying cheating scumbag who incidentally charges way too much for his books goes back to the 1970s. the underhanded antics he engaged in with the perlmans's red and black in detroit. he's been a thorn in the side of north american anarchism forever, and this is just his latest rip off scheme. i have no love for bookchin, by the way.

they can't all be Lebovicis

dude was stot to death

Dude was shot to death mafia style

What did Ramsey Kanaan do. He used to be in the habit of getting people to volunteer free labor at his small businesses. Where as an owner he was himself of course still getting paid.

Also, a friend who was a member of the Bound Together Book Store collective on San Francisco's Haight Street in the 1990's objected to the store selling what he felt was an overpriced $50 red and black anarcho-syndicalist flag. Kanaan was a member of the collective at that time, and his attitude was completely cynical: Kanaan thought anyone who would pay that much for the flag deserved to be ripped off. Should a self-proclaimed anarchist bookstore be in the business of ripping people off? I'd hate to be an idealistic 14 or 15 year old kid whose first experience with anarchism in practice comes in the form of petit bourgeois business creep Ramsay's avarice and crassness.

Kanaan's sequential publishing endeavors always peddle Stalinist and foam-flecked black nationalist garbage devoid of any critical context, and Kanaan is so desperate to sell this shit that he hypes all of it as "revolutionary" and absolutely indispensable for the apparently easily played anarchist buying public.

There are more examples of Ramsay Kanaan's brand of anarchy in action -- the anarchy of the market, apparently -- I will have to dig around for them.

if thats the worst thing that happens to that anarcho-curious teenager ...

Hands off the anarcho-curious! the most courted hyphenated anarchists!

For these reasons, you write someone off? What an atrociously low bar and what a grand world of ease you must live in.

Political disagreements are one thing, but RK has played a critical role in the production of anarchist and otherwise anti-capitalist material for some 30 years. His projects have outlasted most US anarchist projects by decades and have provided literary interventions that have impacted a variety of social struggles in important ways. Get out of here with this 'my friend told me he once supported charging a high price for a flag 20 years ago' bullshit. Even if this is true it's completely irrelevant and a petter attempt at character assassination by entitled shitheads with some abstract politics of morality that are stupid. Go start an anarchist project, make it work for 15 years, and come back and tell everyone how you've made every step that made everyone happy. Until then bugger off dipshit.

Dear fella.

Might I interest you in some non-violent communication?

Part of the reason Ramsey was able to keep AK afloat is that he and the other collective members were able to use “volunteers” who donated their labor. All great capitalists know that a certain amount of slavery is indispensable for successful businesses. That’s a separate issue from the sectarian production and distribution decisions AK (and now PM) have made over the years.

Volunteering is not slavery. People volunteer in projects where others are paid all the time. It’s not inherently exploitative. I’ve participated in probably a dozen such groups over the last 20 years or so and understood why that occurred. If the collective members were making hundreds of thousands of dollars, there might be some point of worth here. But AK and PM folks live on shit wages and could easily get better paying gigs with their decades of experience. Be greatfu people have such commitment and aren’t petty trollers assassinating character just to have something to say.

Volunteering is not slavery as long as everyone else is a volunteer. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’ll wager that the projects you volunteered (donated labor) for were not capitalist businesses. In that situation, non-remuneration is at least nominally against the law. The pro-capitalist sleight of hand that inheres in anarchist businesses relies on the conceit that the business is part and parcel of The Struggle, and therefore morally deserving of volunteer labor as if it were on a par with making placards or puppets for a march. If there are more volunteers than there are waged workers, then it’s a failing business. But when, in the early 2000s, Ramsey could brag in Publishers Weekly about the profits AK was earning, the continued reliance of AK on non-remunerated labor was (and remains) horrifying. At the risk of sounding bitter: that’s not anarchist!

This is a ridiculous stringing together of words. “Horrifying” and “slavery” to describe a small prolific publisher taking volunteer labor, which people had the agency to voluntarily give. Get some proportionately and perspective, because these descriptors - usual reserved for the worst humanity has to offer - aren’t, uhh, exactly applicable here.

AK is not "taking" volunteer labor, but relies on it to survive. to think that starry-eyed enthusiasts who have no understanding of how capitalism needs slavery to exist and be maintained are people who "had the agency [sic] to voluntarily give" is totally blaming the victim. the perspective in this entire thread has been on individuals, starting with that scumbag Roussopolous, moving through the dead Bookchin and his offspring, and including the signatories on the original document. someone else asked about Ramsey and AK, so that circle of perspective expanded to include about 40 or 50 people total. why bring the ridiculous construct "humanity" into the discussion that wasn't about that? my choice of descriptors have nothing to do with "humanity", but the very small subset that's been included in this particular discussion. your deployment of whataboutism is transparent, just like your blaming the victim. your objections are moral and rhetorical, not political or practical. nice try, though; you probably swayed a few other liberals.

This is actually crazy. Your logic here is actually distorted to be point of incoherence. Best of luck navigating the world.

And your point is? It's cool to fleece teenagers? If so it's a fine example of the usual pliant and wormy ethical standards of the anarcho-scene for you, alright.

thanks for giving so much credit but I didn't make the world this way …

...so you just allow the void of this world to be an argument for your own moral bankrupcy, right?

gear down anon, I'm not the topic here

No, but you're probably too flaccid to resist this, either. You've got plenty of company there -- an entire subculture of it.

Why … the hell is a boner required in this scenario?

Cos its a hands on hard on job being a syndicalist is why!

Dimitri sounds like a jerk. Although I don’t care about Bookchin or the Institute for Social Ecology. He spent a portion of his life attacking other anarchists and then denouncing anarchism. In his life he rallied support for liberal politicians and pushed a politics that amounted to anarchists participating in local government. While I think Dimitri might be an asshole I don’t know if anarchists should be fighting for Bookchin’s royalties.

The following comment was intended to follow "Senile Troll" 22:23:

No, but you're probably too flaccid to resist this, either. You've got plenty of company there -- an entire subculture of it.

The way comments get misdirected to appear to be commenting on other posts is symptomatic of the species of anarchy in action that I have always encountered in the United States.

Are you the Viagrismo troll, you know, flaccid, dick jokes etc?

never underestimate the whip of a floppy wild dagger

Try to stay on topic, flaccid ones. Or get the day nurse to up the dosage on your Ritalin.

In response to Really? (not verified) Thu, 09/12/2019 - 20:38

For the sake of argument, let's leave aside accusations of scummy personal antics; anarchism in the contemporary United States is in practice very much a fan culture and a wholly laissez faire phenom and a free-fire zone where people can do whatever they want to one another. Kanaan shouldn't be held to a higher standard than anyone else. Kanaan's cynicism and at least borderline exploitative antics are par for the course in this scene.

Let's move on to the more important question: you allege that "have provided literary interventions that have impacted a variety of social struggles in important ways." This assumes that publication endeavors Ramsey Kanaan have been associated with are fulfilling some sort of greater good in struggles for liberatory social change. Actually publication efforts that Kanaan have been involve in have an indiscriminate enthusiasm for anything and everything that left-of-center people might want to buy.

See for example the wholly uncritical attitude on display here:

"Angela Davis is one of the iconic figures of this era. She was acquitted of conspiracy charges in 1972 after one of the most famous trials in U.S. history. She went on to become an internationally regarded scholar and writer. She is the author of many books, including Women, Culture and Politics and Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. Governor Ronald Reagan of California vowed when he fired her from her position at UCLA that she would never again teach in the state system. Today, she is a tenured professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz." (http://www.pmpress.org/content/article.php/AngelaDavis)

For many decades, Angela Davis was a high-profile functionary for the Moscow-franchise "Communist" Party U.S.A. In this capacity she was a vocal and shameless apologist for one of the biggest mass incarceration and forced labor projects in human history, the so-called Soviet Union. In today's U.S. she gets taken seriously as a prison abolition activist. Not having read Davis's works i can't say that a supposedly anarchist publisher shouldn't carry them -- but if the publisher in question had any political backbone or intellectual integrity they would carry works by such a dubious source with some sort of caveat or qualifier.

This isn't a small point -- Stalinism was the vanguard of the counter-revolution in the 20th century; Stalinism delivered the planet to capital; we are now living in the accelerating negative aftermath of this. And what I'm saying about PM Press's attitude towards Davis applies across the board to other not-terribly anti-authoritarian stuff peddled by PM Press. Try to engage Kanaan about tis and watch the arrogant and petulant response that ensues. Ramsey Kanaan is not some kind of valiant radical forced to make an occasional unpleasant compromise; he is a businessman like other businessman.

Add new comment