Archive for the 'Technology' Category

“Billy Graham Invites Unabomber To Sacramento Crusade” (1995)

Associated Press, October 17, 1995

(Sacramento, California) — Evangelist Billy Graham is inviting the elusive Unabomber to his Christian crusade beginning tomorrow in Sacramento, California.

Graham says he believes violent crime is part of increasing evil in society. But he says spirituality and goodness also are on the increase. The evangelist said yesterday he believes people should pray for the bomber and that he hopes the man will seek salvation.

Law enforcement investigators believe the terrorist, responsible for a string of sometimes deadly bombings, may live in the Sacramento area.

Murray Bookchin: using x-rays for hair removal and fitting children’s shoes (1962)

To make matters worse, X-ray equipment was rapidly debased into a cosmetic agent and, finally, into a sales promotion device. It was found that X rays could cause a loss of hair (epilation), an effect that suggested lucrative possibilities. By the 1920’s many physicians, beauticians, and self-appointed “epilation specialists” had begun to treat women with radiation for the removal of “superfluous hair.” One New York physician, Dr. Albert C. Geyser, developed a “harmless” method of hair removal that involved cumulative dosages of at least 500 roentgens over a twelve-week period of radiation treatment. The method, named the “Tricho System,” was very successful, and beauticians trained by Geyser’s “Tricho Institute” began operating in many parts of the United States and Canada. It soon became evident, however, that women treated according to the “Tricho System” lost substantially more than unwanted hair. Many individuals acquired radiodermatitis (skin inflammation), severe radiation burns, festering skin ulcers, and, in time, cancer. The “Tricho” story is one of the more tragic episodes in the history of radiation. It is believed that the victims of Geyser’s system numbered in the thousands; the exact number of those who suffered latent injury and premature death will never be known.

Although radiation is no longer employed in the American beauty parlor, the use of X-ray equipment to fit shoes still lingers in a number of communities. The equipment is used mainly on the feet of children. As of 1960, the use of the shoe-fitting fluoroscope had been banned in twenty-nine states. Some of the other states regulate the use of the machine, but in a few states there are no restrictions at all. A number of local surveys cited by Schubert and Lapp have shown that the machines are often defective, giving high doses of radiation to both the child and the salesman. The Michigan Department of Health, for example, found shoe-fitting machines that emitted as many as 65 roentgens (r) a minute. A survey in Boston showed that irradiation of the foot ranged from 0.5 to 5.8 r a second. (The use of shoe-fitting fluoroscopes has been banned in Boston by state law and is regulated in Michigan.) “For a 22-second exposure, which is commonly used, the feet receive from 10 to 116 rl” Schubert and Lapp write. “Remember, too, that one child may have his feet examined many times while trying on different shoes. Similar dosage measurements have been reported by the United States Public Health Service, which states that the average dosages to the children’s feet are between 7 r and 14 r per exposure.” The amount of scattered radiation that reaches the child’s pelvic region and gonads may run as high as 0.2 roentgens for a Twenty second exposure.

= = = =

Murray Bookchin (under the pseudonym Lewis Herber), Our Synthetic Environment, chapter 6. Originally published in 1962, this text taken from Anarchy Archives.

Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous – Adventures in Subversion: Flyers and Posters, 1981-85

This classic booklet of post-Situ flyers was made by John Zerzan and Dan Todd, probably in 1985. The version this is made from lists the publisher as Oh! Press in San Francisco.

6 MB version

14 MB version

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Louis Adamic: Workers Against Machines (excerpt from ‘Dynamite!’) (1931)

In a shoe factory in Milwaukee a man was pointed out to me who was known among some of his fellow workers to be a saboteur. An eccentric-looking person, he hated the machines and had all sorts of devices to damage them. He was an indefinite sort of radical, and he considered the machines a great curse to humanity. I have encountered this hate for machines elsewhere. People vent it in various forms of sabotage, which has no connection with I.W.W.-ism or Communism, but is purely a matter of personal resentment and vindictiveness. I have seen people who – sometimes drunk, sometimes sober – cursed the machine and, passing by, shook their fists at the mills, declaring they were not their slaves. Every big industrial town seems to have ‘nuts’ who believe that machines are alive and hold them – the workers – in their power.

Shortly after the war I read – I forget where – about an American soldier – “a nut” – who believed that machines were killing people in revenge for the work that they were made to do. “Stop the machines,” he would cry, lying wounded in a hospital, “and there’ll be no more war. Machines make war – machines kill us!”


from Louis Adamic, Dynamite! The Story of Class Violence in America (Oakland & Edinburgh: AK Press, 1931/2008), p 279.

Sam Dolgoff: “Modern Technology and Anarchism” (1986)

“Modern Technology and Anarchism”
Sam Dolgoff

In their polemics with the Marxists the anarchists argued that the state subjects the economy to its own ends. An economic system once viewed as the prerequisite for the realization of socialism now serves to reinforce the domination of the ruling classes. The very technology that could now open new roads to freedom has also armed states with unimaginably frightful weapons for the extinction of all life on this planet.

Only the social revolution can overcome the obstacles to the introduction of the free society. Yet the movement for emancipation is threatened by the far more formidable political, economic and social power and brain-washing techniques of the ruling classes. To forge a revolutionary movement, inspired by anarchist ideas is the great task to which we must dedicate ourselves.

To make the revolution we must stimulate the revolutionary spirit and the confidence of the people that their revolution will at last reshape the world nearer our aspirations. Revolutions are stirred by the conviction that our ideals can and will be realized. A big step in this direction is to document the extent to which the liberating potential of modern technology constitutes a realistic, practical alternative to the monopoly and abuse of power.  This is not meant to imply that anarchism will miraculously heal all the ills inflicting the body social. Anarchism is a twentieth century guide to action based on realistic conceptions of social reconstruction.

Anarchism is not a mere fantasy. Its fundamental constructive principle – – mutual aid – – is based on the indisputable fact that society is a vast interlocking network of cooperative labor whose very existence depends upon its internal cohesion. What is indispensable is emancipation from authoritarian institutions over society and authoritarianism within the people’s associations – – themselves and miniature states.

Peter Kropotkin, who formulated the sociology of anarchism, wrote that “Anarchism is not a utopia. The anarchists build their previsions of the future society upon the observation of life at the present time…” If we want to build the new society the materials are here.


When Kropotkin wrote in 1899, his classic Fields, Factories and Workshops to demonstrate the feasibility of decentralizing industry to achieve a greater balance and integration between rural and urban living, his ideas were dismissed by many as premature. However, it is no longer disputed that the problem of making the immense benefits of modern industry available to even the smallest communities has largely been solved by modern technology. Even bourgeois economists, sociologists and administrators like Peter Drucker, John Kenneth Galbraith, Gunnar Myrdal, Daniel Bell and others now favor a large measure of decentralization no because they have suddenly become anarchists, but primarily because technology has rendered anarchistic forms of organization “operational necessities” – – a more efficient devise to enlist the cooperation of the masses in their own enslavement.

Continue reading ‘Sam Dolgoff: “Modern Technology and Anarchism” (1986)’

‘The Origins of Primitivism’ set (1977-1988)

RADICAL ARCHIVES is happy to finally present our ‘Origins of Primitivism’ set. It consists of 16 documents related to the development of contemporary primitivist thought, which were first printed in Fifth Estate between 1977 and 1988. All of these documents (listed at bottom) are available online for the first time.

Additionally, David Watson has contributed a short introduction and reflection on these texts for the occasion of putting them online; it is available here.

(If you are new to Radical Archives, we recommend you look at the index of texts posted, and the about statement, which describes the site’s topic interests.)

The most important of the these texts is David Watson’s “Against the Megamachine” (originally published in 1981), which outlines his distinct version of primitivism. Watson renounced ideological primitivism with 1997’s “Swamp Fever, Primitivism and the ‘Ideological Vortex’: Farewell to All That”, two years before the demonstrations in Seattle against the WTO. Partly because of Watson’s exit from the discourse, Zerzan’s version (which actually had been developed later) became synonymous with the concept “anarcho-primitivism”.

Watson’s essay is the only document of this set which was previously in print; it is available as the title essay of the Autonomedia book Against the Megamachine: Essays on Empire and Its Discontents. Prior to this, the other texts were only accessible in specialized archival holdings.

Also of importance is “Confronting the Enemy: A Response on Time”, which is a long critique of Zerzan’s article “Beginning of Time, End of Time” (which was the first of his five “origins” essays). Written under Watson’s pen name “George Bradford”, this much-overlooked critique summarizes what are the basic objections to Zerzan’s view from a sympathetic perspective: that the notion of purely unalienated being (and along with it, the abolition of agriculture) is a misguided – and impossible – approach to these issues. Paralleling many discussions within the Western Marxist and Existentialist milieu (especially regarding Georg Lukács’s early work on reification), Watson argues that separation is something intrinsic to human nature, and cannot  be seen as ‘outside’ of our own human existence. To abolish separation is to return to the womb or ascend into heaven.

The third essay of special importance is Bob Brubaker’s “Community, Society and the State”. Brubaker was a Fifth Estate writer who was involved in the magazine’s dialogue as primitivism was developed. Brubaker’s work has been largely forgotten.

The fourth essay of special importance is Fifth Estate‘s 1977 review of Gary Snyder’s The Old Ways, Six Essays. Steve Millett has identified this as the first complete statement of a primitivist perspective to appear in Fifth Estate.

Last, a letter from Marcus Graham, who had edited the anarchist magazine MAN! in the 1930s, shows the issues Fifth Estate was grappling with around technology, organization, etc. had been long-standing discussions in the anarchist milieu, well back into the classical era.

By making these documents available online, hopefully a richer understanding of the different strains of primitivism will result, as well as a constructive and critical dialogue regarding this intellectual and political current. Important questions were asked by the founders of primitivism, including: critiques of political organization, spontaneity and resistance; the role of technology and the question of its autonomy; and basic ontological questions about civilization, alienation and environmental domination. With the partial exception of insurrectionism, these questions have largely been shelved by the post-Seattle anglophone anti-authoritarian milieu.

While Radical Archives is neither “primitivist” nor “anti-civ”, our position is that these questions have not been answered by Murray Bookchin’s brand of social ecology, John Zerzan’s version of primitivism, or any version of ‘green syndicalism’.

It is partly for this reason, and partly out of interest in anarchist intellectual history, that we are returning to the time in which these questions were being actively grappled with in the anti-authoritarian milieu.

Radical Archives would like to thank Steve Millet for pointing out many of these works in his dissertation, as well as to David Watson and Peter Werbe for their help in identifying who wrote many of these articles. We would also like to give special thanks to Dylan Smith for the many hours he spent transcribing all of these works; without his labor, none of this would be possible.

We hope in the near future to make available a number of related works, including works by primitivist John Moore, Sam Dolgoff’s essay on technology, as well as other works of Bob Brubaker.


Introduction to ‘The Origins of Primitivism’ Set by David Watson (2010)

The First Primitivist Essay: “Gary Snyder Asks: Poetry or Machines? Back to the Stone Age” (1977)

“Technology & the State: An Introduction” (1978)

“FE Criticized and Our Response” (1978)

“On Having Nothing to Say” (1979)

“Searching for the Culprit” (1979)

“Against Civilization: Introduction to Russell Means” (1980)

Introduction to ‘Fifth Estate’ #306 (1981)

“Against the Megamachine” by David Watson (1981-1985/1997)

“Marxism, Anarchism and the Roots of the New Totalitarianism” by George Bradford (1981)

“Community, Primitive Society and the State” by Bob Brubaker (1981)

“Defeated Spirit?”, letter from John Zerzan to ‘Fifth Estate’ (1981)

Marcus Graham on ‘Fifth Estate’, Anarchism, Technology & Bookchin (1981)

“More Debate on Technology: Does FE View Mean ‘War or Big Brother?’”, letter from Chris Dugan and reply from John Zerzan  (1982)

“Confronting the Enemy: A Response on Time” by George Bradford (1983)

Language: John Zerzan on George Bradford on John Zerzan (1984)

Introduction to John Zerzan’s “Agriculture” essay, by E.B. Maple (1988)

David Watson: Introduction to the Origins of Primitivism Set (2010)

One thing I would say and may have already said in my books Beyond Bookchin and Against the Megamachine and my essay “Swamp Fever, Primitivism and the ‘Ideological Vortex’: Farewell to All That” is that I am not opposed at all to some kind of reasoned primitivism. I just distrust all “isms,” and in the case of much of self-proclaimed anarcho-primitivism, the insights of a primitivist view (for example, to be found in Stanley Diamond’s In Search of the Primitive, The Old Ways, much anthropological literature, and the writings and testimonies of native peoples) has become a simplistic, dogmatic, and sometimes fascistic response to problems that demand instead our humanity, compassion, and humility.

I admire so-called primitive or original and tribal societies and believe they offer profound answers to what it means to be human, particularly in the present crisis in world industrial capitalist civilization. They don’t have all the answers, and there is no way they can be fully reproduced, but we need to pay attention to all our ancestors, and to the great traditions – primitive, archaic, and modern – in our evolutionary experience. I think Gary Snyder’s Practice of the Wild one of the most powerful expressions of respect for primitive and archaic traditions, and search for a synthesis of ancient and modern, today, and I recommend it emphatically for its wisdom, beautiful writing, erudition, sense of humor, humility, and humanity.

I must confess that I am pessimistic about our capacity to save ourselves and the complex web of planetary life we know with any insight or political outlook, but I don’t see any reason to give up, and I admire and try to find ways to support those who continue to seek answers and to fight back. Caring about and responding to the crisis in a humane way is one of the few things remaining that keep us human.

I may look at this later and want to modify (or clarify) what and how I am saying this, but it is largely how I have felt about these matters since the days when we were first exploring and debating these ideas. I am grateful to Dylan Smith and Radical Archives and everyone else who did the hard work to make these texts available.

David Watson,
September 2010


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