What Is Situationism? A Reader

Edited by Stewart Home

Like some of the other Stewart Home books, this acts as a streamlined sampler of writing critical of “radical” cultural phenomena. There is enough diverse criticism in this book to at once attract young hopefuls who don’t want to inherit their radicalism or read too much, while it avoids becoming just more reductive journalism à la Rolling Stone coverage (even after one of Home’s morally driven intros). This book has essays from Bob Black, Dave and Stuart Wise, and Jimmie Martin, to name three. Home’s “subjective” bashing of co-opted avant-gardism can be humorous, inciting or sometimes banal (like existentialism), but his selections and bibliography in this book, as in his others, are absolutely worthwhile reading. KH

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 204 pages

ANSWER ME!: The First Three

Jim and Debbie Goad

Aging punks find renewed purpose combating the glassy-eyed revival of hippie-chic in so-called rave culture (or Ravestock™), the consumo-liberalism of slack, of spectacle society (whether middlebrow or “alternative”), of the multicultural and welfare states, and find their true selves in the process. The Goads are easily the most influential members of the latest crop of countercultural “taste-makers,” the success story of their “hate rag” ANSWER ME! unprecedented in the by-definition marginal universe of personal zines. And let it be known that this empire-to-be was built on a good, old-fashioned foundation of blood, sweat, tears and flawless spelling; not the usual faddish ephemera. It was inevitable that whatever remained of punk in the ‘90s should take a sharp turn to the right, a form of self-actualization, really. With ANSWER ME!, the DIY initiative finally reclaims its Calvinist roots, alienation is reconfigured as rugged individualism, and all that fiddling with sexual codes serves in the end to mark an essential difference. Punk’s sexual ambivalence erupts here into full-scale biological warfare—the body being inherently revolting, as is, by extension, reproduction, childbirth, you name it. No surprise then that the Goads should choose instead to toil on behalf of the mighty death drive. While not the first magazine wholly devoted to mayhem, ANSWER Me! is easily the most ecstatic. Now that AK press has reprinted the first three issues in a single hefty volume, the Goads’ particular achievement may at last be measured against the general eruption of prurience which defines our cultural moment. Initial shock waves eddy ever outward into eventual alignment with the mainstream, and death, once the last outpost of the unthinkable, is not only colonized but converted into our foremost commodity. Or, in the words of the typical ANSWER ME! reader: “I’ll trade you two Dahmers for one Gacy.”
Supported by a familiar cast of fringe-dwellers (Anton LaVey, Timothy Leary, Boyd Rice, Ray Dennis Steckler, Russ Meyer, etc.) as well as some welcome new additions (Dr. Kevorkian, Rev. Al Sharpton, Al Goldstein, David Duke, etc.), the Goads set forth in these pages a definitive manual of cultural provocation and resistance, and one auspiciously devoid of rock’n’roll. Extreme and vital information is sniffed out (vitiated) at the source, rather than distilled by way of some popstar’s blathering. Likewise, no trippy typefaces, no kinko-collages, and no fisheye photographs to intrude upon the crystalline sobriety of the ANSWER ME! aesthetic. Two Top 100 charts, one devoted to mass murderers, another to “spectacular” suicides, are exemplary journalistic feats, showcasing a near-psychotic fastidiousness which perfectly complements the subject matter. Order rules at the offices of ANSWER ME!—the better to drive home their message of hate, and if not a message, then at least a market. JT

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 134 pages

Death Row: 1997

Hare Publications

“Roster of all 2,928 death-row inmates”—includes mug shots arranged high-school annual style of selected murderers, short descriptions of their crimes, arrests and possible methods of execution and a list of inmates executed since the last roster. Front section has detailed statistics on capital punishment in the U.S. and in-depth “profiles” of selected death-row inmates written by local journalists from where the crimes were committed.

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 216 pages

From Alcatraz to Marion to Florence: Control-Unit Prisons in the United States

Fay Dowker and Glenn Good

A short history and critique of control-unit prisons. AK

Publisher: AK
Pamphlet: 48 pages

Breaking the Barriers to Desire: Polyamory, Polyfidelity and Non-Monogamy — New Approaches to Multiple Relationships

Edited by Kevin Lano and Claire Parry

Perhaps the first book (from the U.K. at least) to take non-monogamy seriously, Breaking the Barriers to Desire covers all aspects of “responsible non-monogamy,” such as triads, open relationships, and polyfidelity. Personal experience, advice and theoretical articles are included—all by authors with experience in the theory and practice of such relationships. AK

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 137 pages

Catechism of the Revolutionist

Sergei Nechaev

A ruthless set of “how-to” rules for the revolutionary. From the man who walked it like he talked it. Much loved by the Black Panthers but hated by everyone else. AK

Publisher: AK
Pamphlet: 12 pages

Ecofascism: Lessons From the German Experience

Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier

This simplistic bit of Bookchinist propaganda is concerned with the re-emergence of fascism in the late 20th century, and with the use of environmentalism as a right-wing cause. The Right’s tendency to use ecology has its historical roots in 19th-century romanticism and the Third Reich, and continues to the present day. The authors use the German historical model as a mechanism to study the role of ecology as a political tool, meanwhile propagating their vision of Social Ecology. SC

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 76 pages

Gone to Croatan: Origins of North American Drop Out Culture

Ron Sakolsky and James Koehline

Gone to Croatan follows the nearly submerged traces of those who took the term “Land of the Free” at face value. This compilation of essays (plus collages, etc.) from Autonomedia such as “Anarchy in the American Revolution,” “Caliban’s Masque: Spiritual Anarchy and the Wild Man in Colonial America,” and “The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, and the Atlantic Working Class in the Eighteenth Century” spasmodically reveals the outline of another America—not the one methodically constructed by steely-eyed homesteaders and take-no-prisoners robber barons—but a tripped-out, freer American history that they would never want you to know about in high school. The collection takes its title from the lost colony of Roanoke, Va. which disappeared entirely, leaving only the cryptic message “Gone to Croatan” carved on a tree, referring to a nearby Indian tribe in the Great Dismal Swamp. As Peter Lamborn Wilson describes the episode, “European vagabonds transmuted themselves into Noble Savages, said goodbye to Occult Imperialism and the miseries of civilization, and took to the forest.”
An important segment of Gone to Croatan deals with the obscure and ill-fated Ben Ishmael, a multiracial nomadic Muslim tribe who ventured out of the Kentucky hills and set up the first permanent settlement in what is now Indianapolis. The determined extermination and forced sterilization campaign against this steadfastly communal and anarchistic group by the “Progressives” of their day led to the world’s first eugenics laws in the state of Indiana, directly inspiring the Nazi legal codes of the ‘30s and ‘40s. The Ben Ishmael are also linked to the murky origins of the Nation of Islam in the northern Midwestern cities of Detroit and Chicago.
While at times bogged down into the kind of academic term-paper navel-gazing which generates phrases like “to (re)write ‘Louis Riel’ into a liminal textual space” and stock lefty anti-Columbus posing, Gone to Croatan is generally filled with startlingly vibrant historical detail. From the bacchanalian “Revels of New Canaan” of Mayday 1627 that freaked out the totalitarian Puritan sectarians, to the 18th century “Whiteboy Outrages” in Ireland led by such rad rebel captains as “Slasher” and “Madcap Setfire,” Gone to Croatan is the suppressed history of individualist anarchists in early colonial times, utopian communal experiments, escaped slave and Indian alliances, marauding “land pirates” and politicized trans-Atlantic waterfront “mobs.” SS

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 384 pages

Televisionaries: The Red Army Faction Story, 1963-1993

Tom Vague

Televisionaries, originally published as part of the British anarchist zine Vague, is one of the few English-language books on Germany’s legendary urban guerrillas best known as the Baader-Meinhof group. Presented as a terse chronology, it covers their origins in the Vietnam protests and German yippie/Situationist offshoots of the ‘60s, evolution into agents of daring acts of international terrorism ranging from kidnappings, hijackings, bombings and bank robberies to the distribution of free U-bahn tickets. Ulrike Meinhof’s transformation from sexy, radical-chic Euro-journalist into deadly urban commando and the creation of the original SPK—the Socialist Patients Collective, which began as a revolt inside a German mental hospital—are just two among the many facets of the RAF web which Televisionaries illuminates. From the dubious “triple suicide” in separate cells of Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe and Gudrun Ensslin in the massively high-security Stammheim prison in Stuttgart through the extradition of fugitive RAF members from the former East Germany and the latest episodes of anti-NATO Euro-terrorism, Televisionaries also covers the demise and sputtering attempts at resuscitation of violent left-wing radicalism in post-perestroika Western Europe. SS

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 112 pages

Bad: The Autobiography of James Carr

James Carr

The brutally straightforward, first-person account of the life of James Carr, from his days as a child criminal on the streets of L.A. through his transformation to a notorious rebel convict alongside George Jackson in Folsom prison. Arrested in his teens for armed robbery and bookmaking, Carr (along with Jackson) formed the Wolf Pack, a brotherhood of African-Americans who banded together in order to survive the ongoing prison race wars. While guaranteeing their members a certain margin of material security, Carr eventually realized that the warring bands were pawns of the prison authorities bent on having the feuding factions kill each other off. Inspired by a seemingly diverse group of influences (the Panthers, the Situationists, Lautréamont and Nietzsche), he set about stopping the gang wars altogether in order to target the system itself—a maneuver that provoked the authorities to both increase their savagery and separate Carr and Jackson.
In the mid-’60s Carr was incarcerated in the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, where he again transformed himself from “uppity” inmate to calculating thinker bent on manipulating the authorities, and eventually engineered his own release. Just after the book’s completion, early one April morning in 1972, Carr was murdered “gangland style.” While his two killers were arrested and given life sentences, no motive was uncovered. “I’ve been struggling all my life to get beyond the choice of living on my knees or dying on my feet,” writes Carr; this struggle had a price he knew well and paid in full. MDG

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 222 pages