We just added twenty new titles to the English literature section of our website.
A resounding 10 of the 20 new titles can beclassified in the general category „memoirs/biography/autobiography.“ At the risk of sounding needlessly arrogant…Ive read 6 of those 10, and they wouldnt now be online if I hadnt found them positive / informative / educational / inspiring.
While the 70s and 80s might have been times of intense activity for radical and autonomous movements in Europe, the late 70s and especially 80s were very much times of retreat for radical activists in North America. Yet there were those who chose to continue struggling, many of them choosing the path of armed struggle, usually in solidarity with struggles taking place in other parts of the world. There stories are unfortunately usually those of much sacrifice, isolation, and often long prison sentences. They are at the same time the life paths of brave and committed men and women who refused to accept defeat and stood true to their ideals until, and often through, the very last consequences. We as militants and activists of the present day should at the very least learn about their times and struggles, and see what lessons, if any, we can take from their experiences.
The first such book, is „Love and Struggle“ by David Gilbert. Gilbert, an ex-member of the Weather Underground who continued in armed struggle through the 70s, was imprisoned following a failed armed action in 1981, carried out together with members of the „Black Liberation Army“. He has been in prison for now over 30 years, and is serving a 75 year sentence. He refused to participate in his own trial, denying the state the authority to try him (in contrast to the sentence handed to Kathy Boudin, who pled guilty and was released on parole in 2003).
Not new, but equally inspirational and moving is „Arm the Spirit: A Womans Journey Underground and Back“ which recounts Diana Blocks experience living underhground in the USA in the 80s, as a woman, an anti-imperialist, a mother, and a revolutionary.
„In a perfect demonstration that the personal is political, Diana’s memoir offers insights into efforts to build homegrown clandestine resistance to US imperialism. With emotional depth and a poetic style, the book brings a woman’s perspective to a subject typically dominated by heroic, male discourse. It also traces Diana’s political development on either side of her period underground, offering a history of the culture and politics of the 1960s and 1970s-especially the decisions that led many to take up arms against the US government—and an analysis of the political terrain of the 1990s, when she resurfaced and tried to reintegrate into a very different world.“
„Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerilla“ takes place in Canada during more or less the same time, but the book is written more in a memoir/narrative/true crime vein:
„The Vancouver 5, or Squamish 5, were five Canadians convicted in the early 80s of (successfully) bombing a hydro-electric power sub-station, the Litton Systems plant in Toronto, where components for Cruise Missiles were being made, and several Red Hot Video stores, accused of selling violent pornography. Now, finally, twenty years later, Ann Hansen, who served seven years for her involvement, tells the true gripping saga of an anarchist guerilla group.“
Staying in the same time period and still over in North America, but with a very different slant, there is „Bad: The Autobiography of James Carr,“ which I havent read, but from the description promises a lot:
„James Carr started fighting when he was very young and never gave it up. A child prodigy of crime in the streets of the L.A. ghettos and scourge of half a dozen boys‘ homes, his career in armed robbery was quickly cut short by arrest. In prison, he fought harder than ever and became one of the most notorious rebels in the seething California Penal System.
Linking up with George Jackson in Folsom, they led the notorious Wolf Pack, which quickly fought its way to a position of strength in the prison race war. Separated from George, Jimmy transformed himself from an openly rebellious con into a cunning thinker who manipulated the authorities and ultimately engineered his own release.
Carr relates the story of his life with a cold passion, powerfully illuminating the horrors of daily life on the streets and in prison—race riots, murders, rape, and corruption—from the standpoint of one who has overcome them.“
Leaving the subject of armed resistance in the 70s and 80s, but staying with inspiring life stories…
-„Jules Bonnot: Without a Glimmer of Remorse“ is, according to the description „an affectionate, fast-paced, but historically accurate account of the life of the extraordinary Bonnot – worker, soldier, auto-mechanic, driver to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – a man with a long cherished dream of absolute freedom, and the first bank-robber to use a getaway car; an anarchist who felt it his duty to lash out at bourgeois society, staking his all. A tragically romantic hero..“ I agree with every word. A book that will move you to tears, inspire you, and have you swearing vengeance on our enemies, all at the same time.
-„Beggars of Life“ takes place in more or less the same historical period, but over in North America, and recounts the adventures of a hobo in pre-World War 1 USA.
„If Jim Tully were a Russian, read in translation, all the professors would by hymning him. He has all Gorky’s capacity for making vivid the miseries of poor and helpless men and in addition he has a humor that no Russian could conceivably have.“ —H.L. Mencken
An older title, which sparked much controversy upon its release. It is however certainly a „hands on“ account of militant antifascism in the UK from the mid 70s to the mid 90s, certainly in the category entertaining and informative.
Some of the other highlights…
Written by the Occupied London collective and published by AK Press, this is an excellent book analyzing the revolts and struggles taking place in Greece over the last few years. For those interested in the subject, „We Are an Image from the Future: The Greek Revolt of December 2008″, is also available again.
In times of particularly acute capitalist crisis, a title on the much ignored subject of anarchist concepts and visions of economics seemed very timely, as is also true of „Occupy Everything,“ analyzing the causes, consequences, and directions of the current global uprisings and movements of resistance.
*Two books recounting the history of the New York citys late 60s self described „anarchist street gang“ Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker. „Black Mask and Up Against the Wall Motherfucker“ is a collection of texts, interviews, and images from this situationist inspired provocation oriented militant anarchist group, while „Up Against the Wall…: A Memoir of the 60s, With Notes for Next Time“ is one participants recollection and account of their adventures.