Archive for the 'Counterculture & Punk' Category

John & Paula Zerzan vs The Fifth Estate Staff: “FE Criticized and Our Response” (1978)


To the Fifth Estate:

The letter from “Kirk Johnson” (March 2, 1978 FE), which equated Fifth Estate’s practice of running a profit-making book service (to support itself) with Search & Destroy’s record company ads (for the same end), makes public a discussion that has been private for too long.

That the opening of this critique—which really began with FE’s important remarks on Black Rose Books’ capitalist procedures—finally arrives via a spokesman for Search and Destroy is a sad irony. S&D is a completely uncritical promo rag which hopes to be accepted by what it sees as the latest fad, punk rock. Done anonymously, it (characteristically) helped organize a recent two-day benefit for the UMW strike, this piece of liberal/leftist reformism easily coexisting next to censored interviews and ads for rip-off night clubs.

But what of FE, to us the only critical publication in North America? Ammunition Books fulfills exactly the same function as do S&D’s ads. In neither case do the publishers wish to give their own money to their projects. Likewise, as with S&D’s complete public anonymity, FE’s articles are presented almost entirely unsigned or accompanied by clever pseudonyms. Is anyone’s life really involved, or are both enterprises just separate hobbies, just words on a page?

With Search & Destroy, despite a tiny sprinkling of “radical” verbiage—a highly insulting pretension—one would not really expect any quality, any radical break, in the first place. With Fifth Estate one expects a great deal more; why, then, the chilling similarities?

It seems that one factor is FE’s enthusiasm for the ideas of Camatte. C., of course, sees the world as completely domesticated, where virtually no activity can do other than reinforce the totality of capital, where the only thing revolutionary is the revolution itself. Behind this outlook, one’s answer to criticism is that since no project can be revolutionary, why be too concerned with its details?

It is precisely this kind of cynicism (whether or not C. is its sole inspiration) which leads to such deathly separations between FE’s radical language and the daily lives of its creators. Camatte writes of the totality of the revolution required to break the hold of capital—and is a tidy little professor, living as any other bourgeois. It’s arguable that some of the FE “staff” hold jobs which provide the most active forms of service to the commodity and the state.

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Will Shatter to ‘Fifth Estate’ on punk (1978)



Lately there have been a lot of articles and letters about punk rock and the people involved, in all sorts of papers. The vast majority of what’s been written is from people who are outside looking in, trying to figure out what the fuck it all means.

Give up. It’s pointless. Unless you make the commitment to be involved you’ll get nowhere – real fast. We don’t feel we have to justify ourselfs to anyone elses standards. We get called reactionary by commies, socialists, liberals and other idiot lefties. Fascists, conservatives, ministers and various straight people (real sheep) call us anarchists, hoodlums and decadents. All things to all people. Come check us out. But don’t judge us. We’ll just laugh or throw something.

The point is we are trying to do what we want on our own terms as much as possible. I want to fuck things up. That [[3]] doesn’t mean every punk band agrees. Some want to sell records (there are always bad apples).

When we play I like to see chairs and tables broken; I like to see fights and lunacy and objects thrown around. That doesn’t mean that every other band is after that kind of release.

We are not part of a brand new mold. Every time you or any other paper approaches us as a new movement or a coherent unit of sameness, the fight to resist is that much harder.

Fuck this and fuck that: I want some fun – NOW!

The End is Near (I wish)
Will Shatter
Negative Trend
San Francisco

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letter to Fifth Estate #291 (vol 13, #3; April 30, 1978) pp 2-3.

Romanian Secret Police on Anarchist Fanzines

[From the You Can’t Make This Shit Up department…]

When [the anarchists] were involved with Young Friends of Nature, the NGO I planted trees with, the [Romanian] authorities did not seem to mind their presence. But recently, the secret police took notice. They authored a series of articles for the country’s tabloids about the anarchist threat. Mani leaves for a moment and returns with a newspaper.

“It says here we are Satanists. And down here, it says we all practice bestiality and necrophilia. And you know, fanzines?” We all nod – in America, we usually just call them zines. “Well, they almost got this right. It says here that anarchists make home-made magazines, except it then says the fanzines are child pornography, sold on street corners in order to buy hashish.”

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from Suffled How It Gush: A North American Anarchist in the Balkans by Shon Meckfessel (Oakland/Edinburgh/Baltimore: AK Press, 2006/2009), p 271–272.