A List of Some of the Deleted Texts

    A Table of Some of the Deleted Texts

  1. Finbar Cafferkey: The life and death of an Irish fighter ‘who put his money where his mouth is’ in Ukraine

  2. The Virtual Fatory

  3. Armenia doesn’t need another political party — it needs a MOVEMENT!

  4. Communization and the abolition of gender

      I. The Construction of the Category ‘Woman’

      II. The Destruction of the Category ‘Woman’ Though

  5. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

  6. Economic Battle

  7. Child Molestation vs. Child Love

      Introduction: A Word of Warning

        Here Be Dragons


        Childhood “sexuality”

      Child Molestation vs. Child Love (Main text from 1987)

      Critical Annotations by Black Oak Clique

  8. A Tyranny Of Editors

  9. All Days Matter!

  10. Anarchism Before Labels

  11. Identity Poltics Are Boring As Fuck

  12. Insurrectional Nihilism

  13. Second Wave “Feminism” Is Feminism...

  14. The Fox Knows the Hen

  15. The Ones Who Came Back to Omelas

  16. White Supremacy Is a Disease

  17. A Tranarchist Manifesto

  18. ‘Human Rights’ and the Discontinuous Mind

  19. Chile: Anatomy of an economic miracle, 1970–1986

      Anatomy of an Economic Miracle

      The working class

      The real “Miracle”

      State Aid

  20. The IWW in Canada

      General Introduction

      Birth of the IWW

      Canada 1906 – 1918

      The 1,000- Mile Picket Line

      Repression in W.W.I

      Postwar Growth

      Organizing in the 20’s

      Changes in the 30’s

      World War II

      The Dark 50’s

  21. Ableism at the Anarchy Fair

  22. Chinese Anarchism for the 21th Century



      Part 1: Three Principles of the People (三民主義, Sān Mín Zhǔ Yì)

        Nationalism (民族主義, Mín Zú Zhǔ Yì)

        Democracy (民權主義, Mín Quán Zhǔ Yì)

        People’s Livelihood (民生主義, Mín Shēng Zhǔ Yì)

      Part 2: Working with Other Ethnic Groups

      Part 3: Conclusion

      Reference List

  23. Capitalist Education and Learned Helplessness

  24. Think for Yourself, Question Authority


    1. Biography

    2. The Politics of Ecstasy/The Seven Levels of Consciousness (the 60s)

      2.1. Ancient models are good but not enough

      2.2. “The Seven Tongues of God”

      2.3. Leary’s model of the Seven Levels of Consciousness

        1. The Void (level 7):

        2. Emotional Stupor (level 6):

        3. The State of Ego Consciousness/The Mental-social-symbolic Level (level 5):

        4. The Sensory Level (level 4):

        5. The Somatic (Body) Level (level 3):

        6. The Cellular Level (level 2):

        7. The Atomic — Solar Level (level 1):

      2.4. The importance of “set” and “setting”

      2.5. The political and ethical aspects of Leary’s “Politics of Ecstasy

      2.6. Leary’s impact on the young generation of the 60s

        2.6.1. “ACID IS NOT FOR EVERYBODY”

    3. Exo-Psychology (the 70s)

      3.1. S.M.I.²L.E. to fuse with the Higher Intelligence

      3.2. Imprinting and conditioning

       3.3. The Eight Circuits of Consciousness

        1. The Bio-Survival Circuit (trust/distrust):

        2. The Emotional-Territorial Circuit (assertiveness/submissiveness):

        3. The Dexterity-Symbolism Circuit (cleverness/clumsiness):

        4. The Socio-Sexual Circuit:

        5. The Neurosomatic Circuit:

        6. The Neuroelectric-Metaprogramming Circuit:

        7. The Neurogenetic Circuit:

        8. The Neuroatomic Circuit:

      3.4. Neuropolitics: Representative government replaced by an “electronic nervous system”

      3.5. Better living through technology/The impact of Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory

    4. Chaos & Cyberculture (the 80s and 90s)

      4.1. Quantum Psychology

        4.1.1. The Philosophy of Chaos

        4.1.2. Quantum physics and the “user-friendly” Quantum universe

        4.1.3. The info-starved “tri-brain amphibian”

      4.2. Countercultures (the Beat Generation, the hippies, the cyberpunks/the New Breed)

        4.2.1. The cyberpunk

        4.2.2. The organizational principles of the “cyber-society”

      4.3. The observer-created universe

      4.4. The Sociology of LSD

      4.5. Designer Dying/The postbiological options of the Information Species

      4.6. A comparison/summary of Leary’s theories

      4.7. A critical analysis of the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s

        4.7.1. The evolution of the cybernetic counterculture

        4.7.2. Deus ex machina: a deadly phantasy?

        4.7.3. This trip is over

        4.7.4. McLuhan revisited

    5. Conclusion

      5.1. Leary: a pioneer of cyberspace

      5.2. Think for Yourself, Question Authority


  25. Political Prisoners, Prisons, and Black Liberation

  26. The Anarchistic Devil

  27. The Devil and Karl Marx

  28. The Left-Overs

    Chapter 1: The Early Composition of Fascist Individualism

    Chapter 2: The Creation of the Post-Left

    Chapter 3: The Fascist Creep



  29. Where did all the tankies come from?

  30. Thirty Years Ago Today I Shot My First Fascist

  31. Towards a New Oceania

  32. Anarchism and Immigration

      Anarchists Believe In Free Association

      Anarchists Are Anti-Racist

      Anarchists Are Anti-Nationalist

      Anarchists Are Anti-Authoritarian

      Anarchists Are Anti-Capitalist

      Anarchists Believe In International Labor Solidarity

  33. Anarchists Hate Racism

      What we believe

      Where did racism come from?

      There is no such thing as race

      How do we fight racism?

  34. Black Trans Feminist Thought Can Set Us Free

  35. Epistemelogical Anarchism


  36. Against Anarcho-Putinism

      Is this really your position on the war?

        About Anarcho-Putinists (Anatoliy Dubovik)


      Myth 1: We are not fighting for the State, but in defense of the people under the fire of the imperial army.

      Myth 2: Without military operations, it would be impossible to protect the lives of the Ukrainian population and resist the Russian empire.

      Myth 3: The Russian Empire can only be defeated by military force

      Myth 4: Ukraine’s population is under fire from a well-armed Russian army, so defense will not be possible without armament support from NATO and European Union governments.

      Myth 5: Anarchists in Ukraine cannot fight except by joining the army because there is no mass workers’ movement with the means and capacity to organize itself in an anarchist way.

      Myth 6: By not taking part in the war, the working class abandons the weapons it can use to defend itself.

      Myth 7: The involvement of the Ukrainian population in the war was forced by the invasion of Russian troops.

      Myth 8: By getting involved in the war on the Ukrainian side, the interests of the working class in the Ukrainian region are defended.

      Myth 9: An open dictatorship is a less favorable terrain for selforganization than the liberal democracy for which Ukraine is fighting.

      Myth 10: Support for the Ukrainian population is often denied, on the basis of the presence of far-right forces, which are not thatstrong in the country

      Myth 11: Anarchists are against wars, but this one is different from the others, so we must get involved.

      Myth 12: The war has destabilized the Ukrainian State, opening up new possibilities for workers to defend their needs and interests.

      Myth 13: Opposing the struggle of Ukrainian troops because it benefits Western elites is like opposing industrial strikes because they benefit capitalist competitors.

      Myth 14: This is not a war of imperial blocs, but an invasion by a single empire that wants to subjugate its neighbors who have nothing to do with imperialism.

      Myth 15: The analysis of anarchists and leftists, especially in the West, is short-sighted because they see imperialism only in the US, NATO and its allies, not in Russia.

      Myth 16: The claim that the two warring sides are the same is a common ideological justification for not standing up for the massacred Ukrainian population.

      Myth 17: People who have not experienced occupation by the troops of an imperial power will find it difficult to understand why the people of Ukraine are defending themselves through war mobilization.

      Myth 18: The resistance of the Ukrainian troops is based on the voluntary involvement of the Ukrainian population, which decided to join the fight.

      Myth 19: Refusing to support Ukrainian military forces means sacrificing the population to the bombing by Russian troops.

      Myth 20: People who refuse to support the resistance of the Ukrainian army cling to abstract ideological dogmas that cannot practically help those affected

      Myth 21: People rejecting the military resistance of the Ukrainians are only interested in ideological purity and do not care about real people.

      Myth 22: Criticism of involvement in war is often based on outdated quotes from anarchist classics that cannot be applied to the contemporary context.

      Myth 23: Antimilitarism is important, but it is a problem when it becomes dogma.

      Myth 24: Refusing to take part in the fight on the side of the Ukrainian war resistance is a manifestation of the Western Left’s cultural arrogance.

      Myth 25: It is easy to refuse participation in war from people who express their views in a safe place far from the war and do not have to respond to the bombing of their cities.

      Myth 26: People who criticize participation in war from a safe distance are unemphatic and condescending because they do not listen to the people on the ground.

      Myth 27: To criticize the resistance of the Ukrainian army from outside Ukraine is to deny the Ukrainian population self-determination and the ability to be a self-determining agent of change.

      Myth 28: Opponents of supporting Ukrainian military forces are in fact propagandists for the Putin’s regime.

      Myth 29: In this war, democracy must win to prevent fascism/dictatorship from winning.

      Myth 30: The statement “No war but class war” is an abstract and impractical slogan. It is useless to the bombed population.

      Myth 31: The anti-militarist initiative must be aimed at defeating the militarism of the Russian army.

    Instead of Conclusion

  37. Insurrection and Production

    a) The reality of struggle: a brief review of the 2010/11 uprisings from a revolutionary perspective

    b) The revolutionary essence of capitalism: short remarks on the debate about ‘surplus population’ (riots) vs. ‘global working class’ (global production) to tackle the question of what capitalism’s main revolutionary contradictions are

    c) The material (regional) divisions within the working class: some thoughts on the impact of uneven development on how workers experience impoverishment and their productive power differently

    d) The regional backbone of insurrection: empirical material about the structure of essential industries in the UK region

      Total population in the UK region: 64 million

      Size of companies in the UK (2015):

      Agriculture — 500,000 people

      Food processing, production — 2.2 million people

      Water supply/treatment and waste management and street cleansing / general cleaning: 166,500 and 145,000 and 480,000 people respectively

      Energy industry total: around 680,000 people

      Transport total: 1.4 million people

      Retail total — 2.7 million / Logistics total: 1.8 million / Warehouses total: 360,000

      IT/Communication total: 1.2 million people

      Care Sector: 3.2 to 3.5 million people

      Construction: 1 to 2.1 million people

      Engineering/Manufacturing total: around 3 million people

      Media — around 310,000 people

      Postal Service — 200,000 plus

      Public sector total: 5.1 million people

      Army: 180,000 people

    e) “Can anyone say ‘Communism?’”

    f) The basic steps of organising revolution: what would a working class revolution have to achieve within the first months of its existence?

       What are the potentials and challenges for an insurrection within the UK territory?

       How does the UK region differ from and relate to the wider global situation, referring back to the question of uneven development?

    g) The revolutionary organisation: finally we propose that this perspective on revolution tomorrow does not leave us untouched today, it asks for certain organisational efforts in the here and now

       Current Stage

       Revolutionary Stage

  38. A way propounded to make the poor in these and other nations happy

    A way propounded to make the poor in these and other Nations happy, &c.

    An invitation to the aforementioned Society or little Common-wealth, &c.

    A Letter written in order to the now mentioned Society or little Common-wealth; By some well affected persons, whose hearts and hands have already joyned therein: to stir up all such who are truely sensible of the poor and needy, to carry on this so necessary and charitable a work.

  39. The Problem with Nonprofits

  40. Whoring Out Our Trauma


      Weaponization of Our Stories

      How I Started

      Frequency of Assault

      Big vs “Little” Assaults

      Review Forums

      Morality of Being a Client

      Constantly Changing Feelings

      Childhood Abuse

      The Obsession with Trafficking

      Lust for Arrest

      Feminism and Whorephobia

      What’s More Traumatic?

      The Weird Stuff

      Sharing in Private

      Porn Trauma and Trauma Porn

      Those Queers

      The Happy Hooker Myth

      Prostitutes’ Feelings

      Whorearchy and Speaking Up



  41. Imagination and the Carceral State

      No Man’s Land

      Abolitionist Alternatives

      Myth Lessons

        Education in the Era of the Crime Bill: What Questions Can We Ask?

        The Myth-world in the Everyday Life of the Prison Classroom

        The Limits of Sentimental Realism

        Myth Lessons

      Wherever We Are Gathered

        1. The Dilemma

        2. The Flag

        3. The Figure

        4. The File

  42. A Half Revolution: Making Sense of EDSA ’86 and Its Failures

      But is it really?

      EDSA ’86 In 2021

  43. Life After Patriarchy

  44. Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires

  45. Black liberal, your time is up

  46. Politics at the End of History

      The Specter of Hegel

      The Science of History

      Condemned to Win

      The End of History

  47. From Urumqi to Shanghai: Demands from Chinese and Hong Kong Socialists

  48. Burning Bridges


    Our Purpose

    Recognition of White Culture, What It Is, and How It Works

      Section One — Definitions of Whiteness and White Culture

      Section Two — Recognizing and Accepting

      Section Three — Assimilation and Integration

      Section Four — The Assimilation of the Native Americans and Why African Americans Were Never Subjected to the Same Assimilation

    The System and Disconnecting From It

      Section One — The System

      Section Two — Disconnecting


      Section One — Friends and Family

      Section Two — The Workplace

      Section Three — The Public

      Section Four — Operational Security

      Section Five — Mitigating the Risk of Violent Backlash


      Section One — White Saviorship

      Section Two — Individual Action and Participation in Revolutionary Organizations (Short-Term and Long-Term Aid)

      Section Three — Planning and Organizing Actions

      Section Four — Awareness, Disruption, Destruction, Altruism, and the Uniqueness of Street Protests

      Section Five — Types of Violence

      Section Six — Legally Resisting, a Useless Endeavor

    Hard Truths

      Section One — Not Everybody Will Want You In the Fight

      Section Two — Your Life Will Be Worse

      Section Three — You Are Not Oppressed

      Section Four — The Revolution Will Not be Won in a Day

  49. A history of true civilisation is not one of monuments

  50. Rethinking cities, from the ground up

  51. What Women Should Know About Communism

  52. Community Control, Workers’ Control, and the Cooperative Commonwealth


      The Revolutionary Subject

      Race and the Revolutionary Subject


      Transitional Strategy

  53. And The War Drags On

  54. Fathers and Children

    Biographical Note

    Criticisms and Interpretations

      I. By Emile Melchior, Vicomte De Vogüé

      II. By William Dean Howells

      III. By K. Waliszewski

      IV. By Richard H. P. Curle

      V. By Maurice Baring

    List of Characters

    Chapter I

    Chapter II

    Chapter III

    Chapter IV

    Chapter V

    Chapter VI

    Chapter VII

    Chapter VIII

    Chapter IX

    Chapter X

    Chapter XI

    Chapter XII

    Chapter XIII

    Chapter XIV

    Chapter XV

    Chapter XVI

    Chapter XVII

    Chapter XVIII

    Chapter XIX

    Chapter XX

    Chapter XXI

    Chapter XXII

    Chapter XXIII

    Chapter XXIV

    Chapter XXV

    Chapter XXVI

    Chapter XXVII

    Chapter XXVIII

  55. Basic Politics of Movement Security


    The Politics of Security

        Sidebar 1

        Sidebar 2

        Sidebar 3

        Sidebar 4

      Questions and Answers

        Sidebar 5

        Sidebar 6

        Sidebar 7

        Sidebar 8

    G20 Repression and Infiltration in Toronto: an Interview with Mandy Hiscocks

  56. Beginner’s Kata

  57. A Case of Mutual Aid



      Interdependent decision-making

      Wikipedia disputes

      The process

      Wikipedia communion

      The epistemic stance

      Politeness and perspective taking

      Collectivity and Value


      References Cited

  58. The Evolution of the Language Faculty


    1. Introduction

      1.1. Clarifying the FLB/FLN distinction

      1.2. Biolinguistics and the Minimalist Program

      1.3. What is language “for”?

        1.3.1. Current utility

        1.3.2. Functional origins

      1.4. Summary

    2. What’s special: a reexamination of the evidence

      2.1. Conceptual structure

      2.2. Speech perception

        2.2.1. “Speech is special” as a default hypothesis

        2.2.2. Comparative studies of animal speech perception

        2.2.3. Neural data on speech perception

        2.2.4. Convergent evolution

      2.3. Speech production

        2.3.1. Complex vocal imitation

        2.3.2. Anatomical issues

      2.4. Phonology

      2.5. Words

      2.6. Syntax

      2.7. Summary: our view of the evidence

    3. Conclusion: where do we go from here?



  59. Exiting The Vampire Castle

      Inside the Vampires’ Castle

      Neo-anarchy in the UK

      What is to be done?

  60. Workers Launch Wave Of Wildcat Strikes As Trump Pushes For ‘Return To Work’ Amidst Exploding Coronavirus

      Auto Workers

      Agricultural Workers


      Bar Workers

      Bus Drivers

      Call Center

      City Maintenance



      Fast Food

      Garbage Collectors

      Port Workers

  61. What is Dadaism and what does it want in Germany?

  62. Liberation Theology for Quakers

     About the Authors


     Liberation Theology

     Early Friends

    Our Formation: Macedonia Cooperative Community

    Accompaniment: The Southern Civil Rights Movement

    Accompaniment: Draft Counseling

    Accompaniment: Moving To Youngstown

    Using One’s Pain


    St. Mary of the Angels

    You Are the God of the Poor

    In El Bonete

    Return to Quakerism: Nonviolence

    The Gulf War


    Return to Quakerism: A Believable Jesus


    A Short Bibliography on Liberation Theology

  63. Outlaw Kings and Rebellion Chic

      The Non-Ideological Hero

      Revolution Without Revolution

      Who Profits?

  64. Think of the (queer) children

  65. A Planned and Coordinated Anarchy



      Stalinism and the Two Communist Parties

      Barricades: Diliman, University Belt, Los Banos

      The Diliman Commune

        Monday, 1 February

        Tuesday, 2 February

        Wednesday, 3 February

        Thursday, 4 February

        Friday, 5 February, to Tuesday, 9 February



      Abbreviations Used



  66. Reversing the “Model”

      “Who Killed the Unions?”

      Imports, Outsourcing, and the “Other”

      The Case of Steel

      CIO “Model”?

      Reversing the “Model”

  67. You Shouldn’t Have to Pay to Be Alive

      Beyond Hope: A Cogent and Effective Solution

      Many Roads to the Dawn

  68. Imagining an optimistic cyber-future

      Social media and its role in society

      Privacy, property, and abundance for everyone everywhere

      The rise and fall of techno-feudalism

  69. The Shape of Things to Come

    Part 1 (An Interview with J. Sakai, conducted from mid-2020)

    Part 2 (Conclusion of an interview emailed back and forth into mid-2022)

    Introduction from “Marginalized Notes / Monday Nov. 28, 2022”

  70. International Council Correspondence, Volume 1, Issue 1

      What is Communism?

      The Future of the German Labor Movement

      Unity for What?:Communist League and the American Workers Party Move to Form New Party

      The Strike Wave

  71. The Gender Binary Is a Tool of White Supremacy

      Historical Gender Variance

      Colonial Gender in Action

      Women and Race

      Transmisogyny’s Racist and Antisemitic Legacy


  72. Democratic Nation


    1. Introduction

    2. Capitalist Modernity and the Nation

    3. Democratic Modernity

    4. Democratic Solution

    5. The Democratic Nation Model

      5.1 Kurds Becoming a Nation

      5.2 The Democratic Autonomy Solution and its Implementation

      5.3 The KCK and the Dimensions of Becoming a Democratic Nation

        1 — The Free Individual-Citizen and Democratic Communal Life

        2 — Political Life and Democratic Autonomy

        3 — Social Life

        4 — Free Partner Life

        5 — Economic Autonomy

        6 — Legal Structure

        7 — Culture

        8 — Self-Defence System

        9 — Diplomacy

    6. To be a Quester of Democratic Nation Solution

    7. Conclusion

    On the Author

    On the International Initiative

  73. DIY Template for Horizontal Bylaws

  74. Strike Strategy


    Part One

      Chapter 1: The Right to Strike

      Chapter 2: The Great Tradition

      Chapter 3: Strikes and Politics

      Chapter 4: Application of Military Strategy

    Part Two

      Chapter 5: Preparing for Battle

      Chapter 6: On the Line

      Chapter 7: On the Offensive

      Chapter 8: Public Support

    Part Three

      Chapter 9: Violence on the Picket Line

      Chapter 10: Murder in Our Time

      Chapter 11: Modern Strikebreaking – The Mohawk Valley Formula

      Chapter 12: “Law and Order”

      Chapter 13: Back-to-Work Movements

    Part Four

      Chapter 14: Strike Leadership

    Appendix: White Collar Strikes

    Roll Call of the Dead


  75. The Authoritarians





      Who am I?

      What is Authoritarianism?

    Chapter One: Who Are the Authoritarian Followers?

      Right-Wing and Left-Wing Authoritarian Followers

      The RWA Scale

      Is the RWA Scale Valid?

      Unauthoritarians and Authoritarians: Worlds of Difference

      The Low RWA Game

      The High RWA Game


    Chapter Two: The Roots of Authoritarian Aggression, and Authoritarianism Itself

      A Psychoanalytic Explanation

      Bandura’s Social Learning Theory of Aggression

      The Personal Origins of Right-Wing Authoritarianism

      A Tale of Two High School Seniors

      The “Middles”

    Chapter Three: How Authoritarian Followers Think

      1. Illogical Thinking

      2. Highly Compartmentalized Minds

      3. Double Standards

      4. Hypocrisy

      5. Blindness To Themselves

      6. A Profound Ethnocentrism

      7. Dogmatism: The Authoritarian’s Last Ditch Defense

      A Little Application

    Chapter Four: Authoritarian Followers and Religious Fundamentalism

      The Plan for This Chapter

      1. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals in America

      2. Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism

      3. Fundamentalism as a Template for Prejudice

      4. The Mental Life of Fundamentalists

      5. Happiness, Joy and Comfort

      6. Keeping the Faith, Not

      7. Shortfalls in Fundamentalists’ Behavior: Hypocrisy

      Summary: So What Does All This Amount To?

    Chapter Five: Authoritarian Leaders

      Similarities and Differences Between Social Dominators and Authoritarian Followers

        The Personal Power, Meanness and Dominance Scale

        The Exploitive Manipulative Amoral Dishonesty Scale

      Personal Origins of the Social Domination Orientation

      An Experiment Combining Social Dominators and Right-Wing Authoritarians

      Double Highs: The Dominating Authoritarian Personality

      An Experiment Testing the Interaction of Authoritarian Leaders and Followers

      Perspective and Application

    Chapter Six: Authoritarianism and Politics

      RWA, Social Dominance, and Political Preferences Among Ordinary People

      Authoritarianism among American State Legislators

      Other Issues

      Double Highs in the Legislatures?

      Canadian Legislators

      Religious Conservatives and the Republican Party

      The 2006 Mid-Term Election

      A Bit of Modest Speculation

    Chapter Seven: What’s To Be Done?

      Self-Righteousness Begins at Home

      Milgram’s Experiments on Obedience

      Why, then?

      The “Teaching Team” Conditions and Social Psychology’s Great Discovery

      Ordinary Men

      So What’s Your Point?

      What’s To Be Done?

      Long-term Reductions in Authoritarianism: Wishing for the Moon

      Long-term Reductions in Authoritarianism: More Practical Solutions

      The Short Run Imperative: Speak Out Now or Forever, Perhaps, Be Silenced

    Postscript on the 2008 Election

      Part I–Written Right After the Republican Convention

        The Religious Right and John McCain

        Then Came the Primaries

        Two Figures

        The McCain-Obama Match-up

      Postscript—Part II

      Part III–Written on November 5, 2008

        The Polls, the Undecideds, and the “Bradley Effect”

        Sarah Palin

        A Final Point

    Comment on the Tea Party Movement

      A Brief History of the Movement

      Are Tea Partiers Ordinary Citizens? Three Recent Polls

      Authoritarian Followers

      The Other Authoritarian Personality


      What will the future bring?

    Comment on Donald Trump and Authoritarian Followers

  76. Leaves of Grass

    Book I. Inscriptions

      One’s-Self I Sing

      As I Ponder’d in Silence

      In Cabin’d Ships at Sea

      To Foreign Lands

      To a Historian

      To Thee Old Cause


      For Him I Sing

      When I Read the Book

      Beginning My Studies


      To the States

      On Journeys Through the States

      To a Certain Cantatrice

      Me Imperturbe


      The Ship Starting

      I Hear America Singing

      What Place Is Besieged?

      Still Though the One I Sing

      Shut Not Your Doors

      Poets to Come

      To You

      Thou Reader

    Book II. Starting from Paumanok

    Book III. Song of Myself

    Book IV. Children of Adam

      To the Garden the World

      From Pent-Up Aching Rivers

      I Sing the Body Electric

      A Woman Waits for Me

      Spontaneous Me

      One Hour to Madness and Joy

      Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd

      Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals

      We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d

      O Hymen! O Hymenee!

      I Am He That Aches with Love

      Native Moments

      Once I Pass’d Through a Populous City

      I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ

      Facing West from California’s Shores

      As Adam Early in the Morning

    Book V. Calamus

      In Paths Untrodden

      Scented Herbage of My Breast

      Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand

      For You, O Democracy

      These I Singing in Spring

      Not Heaving from My Ribb’d Breast Only

      Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances

      The Base of All Metaphysics

      Recorders Ages Hence

      When I Heard at the Close of the Day

      Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?

      Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone

      Not Heat Flames Up and Consumes

      Trickle Drops

      City of Orgies

      Behold This Swarthy Face

      I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing

      To a Stranger

      This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful

      I Hear It Was Charged Against Me

      The Prairie-Grass Dividing

      When I Peruse the Conquer’d Fame

      We Two Boys Together Clinging

      A Promise to California

      Here the Frailest Leaves of Me

      No Labor-Saving Machine

      A Glimpse

      A Leaf for Hand in Hand

      Earth, My Likeness

      I Dream’d in a Dream

      What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand?

      To the East and to the West

      Sometimes with One I Love

      To a Western Boy

      Fast Anchor’d Eternal O Love!

      Among the Multitude

      O You Whom I Often and Silently Come

      That Shadow My Likeness

      Full of Life Now

    Book VI. Salut au Monde!

    Book VII. Song of the Open Road

    Book VIII. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

    Book IX. Song of the Answerer

    Book X. Our Old Feuillage

    Book XI. A Song of Joys

    Book XII. Song of the Broad-Axe

    Book XIII. Song of the Exposition

    Book XIV. Song of the Redwood-Tree

    Book XV. A Song for Occupations

    Book XVI. A Song of the Rolling Earth

      Youth, Day, Old Age and Night

    Book XVII. Birds of Passage

      Song of the Universal

      Pioneers! O Pioneers!

      To You

      France [the 18th Year of these States]

      Myself and Mine

      Year of Meteors [1859–60]

      With Antecedents

    Book XVIII. A Broadway Pageant

    Book XIX. Sea-Drift

      Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

      As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life


      To the Man-of-War-Bird

      Aboard at a Ship’s Helm

      On the Beach at Night

      The World below the Brine

      On the Beach at Night Alone

      Song for All Seas, All Ships

      Patroling Barnegat

      After the Sea-Ship

    Book XX. By the Roadside

      A Boston Ballad [1854]

      Europe [The 72d and 73d Years of These States]

      A Hand-Mirror





      O Me! O Life!

      To a President

      I Sit and Look Out

      To Rich Givers

      The Dalliance of the Eagles

      Roaming in Thought [After reading Hegel]

      A Farm Picture

      A Child’s Amaze

      The Runner

      Beautiful Women

      Mother and Babe




      Gliding O’er all

      Hast Never Come to Thee an Hour


      To Old Age

      Locations and Times


      To The States [To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad]

    Book XXI. Drum-taps

      First O Songs for a Prelude

      Eighteen Sixty-One

      Beat! Beat! Drums!

      From Paumanok Starting I Fly Like a Bird

      Song of the Banner at Daybreak

      Rise O Days from Your Fathomless Deeps

      Virginia—The West

      City of Ships

      The Centenarian’s Story

      Cavalry Crossing a Ford

      Bivouac on a Mountain Side

      An Army Corps on the March

      By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame

      Come Up from the Fields Father

      Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night

      A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown

      A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim

      As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia’s Woods

      Not the Pilot

      Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me

      The Wound-Dresser

      Long, Too Long America

      Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun

      Dirge for Two Veterans

      Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice

      I Saw Old General at Bay

      The Artilleryman’s Vision

      Ethiopia Saluting the Colors

      Not Youth Pertains to Me

      Race of Veterans

      World Take Good Notice

      O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy

      Look Down Fair Moon


      How Solemn As One by One [Washington City, 1865]

      As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado

      Delicate Cluster

      To a Certain Civilian

      Lo, Victress on the Peaks

      Spirit Whose Work Is Done [Washington City, 1865]

      Adieu to a Soldier

      Turn O Libertad

      To the Leaven’d Soil They Trod

    Book XXII. Memories of President Lincoln

      When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d

      O Captain! My Captain!

      Hush’d Be the Camps To-Day [May 4, 1865]

      This Dust Was Once the Man

    Book XXIII

      By Blue Ontario’s Shore


    Book XXIV. Autumn Rivulets

      As Consequent, Etc.

      The Return of the Heroes

      There Was a Child Went Forth

      Old Ireland

      The City Dead-House

      This Compost

      To a Foil’d European Revolutionaire

      Unnamed Land

      Song of Prudence

      The Singer in the Prison

      Warble for Lilac-Time

      Outlines for a Tomb [G. P., Buried 1870]

      Out from Behind This Mask [To Confront a Portrait]


      To Him That Was Crucified

      You Felons on Trial in Courts

      Laws for Creations

      To a Common Prostitute

      I Was Looking a Long While



      Sparkles from the Wheel

      To a Pupil

      Unfolded out of the Folds

      What Am I After All


      Others May Praise What They Like

      Who Learns My Lesson Complete?


      The Torch

      O Star of France [1870–71]

      The Ox-Tamer

      Wandering at Morn

      With All Thy Gifts

      My Picture-Gallery

      The Prairie States

    Book XXV. Proud Music of the Storm

    Book XXVI. Passage to India

    Book XXVII. Prayer of Columbus

    Book XXVIII. The Sleepers


    Book XXIX. To Think of Time

    Book XXX. Whispers of Heavenly Death

      Darest Thou Now O Soul

      Whispers of Heavenly Death

      Chanting the Square Deific

      Of Him I Love Day and Night

      Yet, Yet, Ye Downcast Hours

      As If a Phantom Caress’d Me


      Quicksand Years

      That Music Always Round Me

      What Ship Puzzled at Sea

      A Noiseless Patient Spider

      O Living Always, Always Dying

      To One Shortly to Die

      Night on the Prairies


      The Last Invocation

      As I Watch the Ploughman Ploughing

      Pensive and Faltering

    Book XXXI. Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood

      A Paumanok Picture

    Book XXXII. From Noon to Starry Night. Thou Orb Aloft Full-dazzling


      The Mystic Trumpeter

      To a Locomotive in Winter

      O Magnet-South


      All Is Truth

      A Riddle Song


      Ah Poverties, Wincings, and Sulky Retreats



      Weave in, My Hardy Life

      Spain, 1873–74

      By Broad Potomac’s Shore

      From Far Dakota’s Canyons [June 25, 1876]

      Old War-Dreams

      Thick-Sprinkled Bunting

      As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days

      A Clear Midnight

    Book XXXIII. Songs of Parting

      As the Time Draws Nigh

      Years of the Modern

      Ashes of Soldiers


      Song at Sunset

      As at Thy Portals Also Death

      My Legacy

      Pensive on Her Dead Gazing

      Camps of Green

      The Sobbing of the Bells [Midnight, Sept. 19–20, 1881]

      As They Draw to a Close

      Joy, Shipmate, Joy!

      The Untold Want


      These Carols

      Now Finale to the Shore

      So Long!

    Book XXXIV. Sands at Seventy



      From Montauk Point

      To Those Who’ve Fail’d

      A Carol Closing Sixty-Nine

      The Bravest Soldiers

      A Font of Type

      As I Sit Writing Here

      My Canary Bird

      Queries to My Seventieth Year

      The Wallabout Martyrs

      The First Dandelion



      To-Day and Thee

      After the Dazzle of Day

      Abraham Lincoln, Born Feb. 12, 1809

      Out of May’s Shows Selected

      Halcyon Days

      Election Day, November, 1884

      With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea!

      Death of General Grant

      Red Jacket (From Aloft)

      Washington’s Monument February, 1885

      Of That Blithe Throat of Thine


      To Get the Final Lilt of Songs

      Old Salt Kossabone

      The Dead Tenor




      “Going Somewhere”

      Small the Theme of My Chant

      True Conquerors

      The United States to Old World Critics

      The Calming Thought of All

      Thanks in Old Age

      Life and Death

      The Voice of the Rain

      Soon Shall the Winter’s Foil Be Here

      While Not the Past Forgetting

      The Dying Veteran

      Stronger Lessons

      A Prairie Sunset

      Twenty Years

      Orange Buds by Mail from Florida


      You Lingering Sparse Leaves of Me

      Not Meagre, Latent Boughs Alone

      The Dead Emperor

      As the Greek’s Signal Flame

      The Dismantled Ship

      Now Precedent Songs, Farewell

      An Evening Lull

      Old Age’s Lambent Peaks

      After the Supper and Talk

    Book XXXV. Good-bye My Fancy

      Sail out for Good, Eidolon Yacht!

      Lingering Last Drops

      Good-Bye My Fancy

      On, on the Same, Ye Jocund Twain!

      MY 71st Year


      The Pallid Wreath

      An Ended Day

      Old Age’s Ship & Crafty Death’s

      To the Pending Year

      Shakspere-Bacon’s Cipher

      Long, Long Hence

      Bravo, Paris Exposition!

      Interpolation Sounds

      To the Sun-Set Breeze

      Old Chants

      A Christmas Greeting

      Sounds of the Winter

      A Twilight Song

      When the Full-Grown Poet Came


      A Voice from Death

      A Persian Lesson

      The Commonplace

      “The Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete”


      L. of G.’s Purport

      The Unexpress’d

      Grand Is the Seen

      Unseen Buds

      Good-Bye My Fancy!

  77. The Life and Writings of Severine

  78. Intellectual Property

  79. Christian Theology of the Homosexual Reaction

  80. The Coworker

  81. Eclipse and Re Emergence of the Communist Movement

  82. Esperanto and Anarchism

  83. What’s Wrong With Postanarchism

  84. Antonio Tellez Sola Anarchist International Octavio

  85. Cornelius 168precisely

  86. Rick Astley a Left Nrx Manifesto

  87. Aldo Perego Alfredo M

  88. Beforeactivate Change

  89. Bob Blek Uprazdnenie Raboty

  90. De Ric Shannon and J

  91. Janeaddamscollective

  92. Nomadicnegativist

  93. The Dialectical Delinquents


I was bored so I decided to spreadsheet the list of URLs of The Anarchist Library and sort them against the live sitemap.

This meant that I could see the list of texts that were once public on the library, but that have now been deleted.

Here’s some of what I found out:

  1. Most of the texts are saved to unlisted URLs so that they can be remembered by librarians and searched through in an ‘unpublished console’.

  2. Often the reason given for deleting a text was just because it was discovered that the text had lots of OCR errors, so fell below quality standards. I found a few texts that I thought were worth the time fixing, so I fixed them, re-submitted them and one has already been re-published.

  3. I agreed that some of the texts weren’t suited for the anarchist library, but I was glad to find them as I thought they were worthwhile archiving on other libraries.

  4. I disagreed with some of the reasons for deleting texts given by librarians, but I found the reasons interesting nonetheless for understanding the library crew’s archiving ethos.

Finally I’ve been able to gather together a collection of essays to display here for people who are curious to read some of the texts that were deleted for unclear reasons or because the librarians thought they weren’t anarchist enough.

None of the texts below are ones that were deleted due to a request by the author, or DMCA, or bad formatting.

I won’t show the unlisted URL’s in case a spam bot brakes the texts or something. Also, if any authors of the texts below stumble on this collection and wish to see their text removed, you can feel free to edit the text yourself to delete your section, or leave a note in the proposed edits, or email ‘TheLibraryofUnconventionalLives at’ and I’m sure it’ll be deleted.

A List of Some of the Deleted Texts

  1. Finbar Cafferkey: The life and death of an Irish fighter ‘who put his money where his mouth is’ in Ukraine — Conor Gallagher and Daniel McLaughlin

  2. The Virtual Fatory — Anton Freinen

  3. Armenia doesn’t need another political party — it needs a MOVEMENT! — Armenian Libertarian-Socialist Movement

  4. Communization and the abolition of gender — Maya Andrea Gonzalez

  5. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto — Aaron Swartz

  6. Economic Battle — Andrew Klemenčič

  7. Child Molestation vs. Child Love — Feral Faun

  8. A Tyranny Of Editors — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  9. All Days Matter! — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  10. Anarchism Before Labels — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  11. Identity Poltics Are Boring As Fuck — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  12. Insurrectional Nihilism — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  13. Second Wave "Feminism" Is Feminism... — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  14. The Fox Knows the Hen — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  15. The Ones Who Came Back to Omelas — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  16. White Supremacy Is a Disease — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  17. A Tranarchist Manifesto — Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

  18. ‘Human Rights’ and the Discontinuous Mind — Anonymous

  19. Chile: Anatomy of an economic miracle, 1970–1986 — Black Flag

  20. The IWW in Canada — G. Jewell

  21. Ableism at the Anarchy Fair — Anonymous

  22. Chinese Anarchism for the 21th Century — Li Meiyi

  23. Capitalist Education and Learned Helplessness — Shaun Riley

  24. Think for Yourself, Question Authority — Arno Ruthofer

  25. Political Prisoners, Prisons, and Black Liberation — Angela Y. Davis

  26. The Anarchistic Devil — Stephen Edred Flowers

  27. The Devil and Karl Marx — Stephen Edred Flowers

  28. The Left-Overs — Alexander Reid Ross

  29. Where did all the tankies come from? — William Gillis

  30. Thirty Years Ago Today I Shot My First Fascist — Ali Al-Aswad

  31. Towards a New Oceania — Albert Wendt

  32. Anarchism and Immigration — Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective

  33. Anarchists Hate Racism — Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective

  34. Black Trans Feminist Thought Can Set Us Free — Che Gossett

  35. Epistemelogical Anarchism — Danielle Bolelli

  36. Against Anarcho-Putinism — Dark Night

  37. Insurrection and Production — Angry Workers of the World

  38. A way propounded to make the poor in these and other nations happy — Pieter Corneliszoon Plockhoy

  39. The Problem with Nonprofits — Another Slice

  40. Whoring Out Our Trauma — Jack Parker

  41. Imagination and the Carceral State — Joshua Bennett

  42. A Half Revolution: Making Sense of EDSA '86 and Its Failures — Allen Severino

  43. Life After Patriarchy — Alnoor Ladha

  44. Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires — Anonymous

  45. Black liberal, your time is up — Yannick Giovanni Marshall

  46. Politics at the End of History — Cam Cannon

  47. From Urumqi to Shanghai: Demands from Chinese and Hong Kong Socialists — Chinese and Hong Kong socialists

  48. Burning Bridges — Curtis Fields and Brooke Harter

  49. A history of true civilisation is not one of monuments — David Wengrow

  50. Rethinking cities, from the ground up — David Wengrow

  51. What Women Should Know About Communism — He Yin Zhen

  52. Community Control, Workers’ Control, and the Cooperative Commonwealth — Howard “Howie” Hawkins

  53. And The War Drags On — Internationalist Perspective

  54. Fathers and Children — Ivan Turgenev

  55. Basic Politics of Movement Security — J. Sakai, Mandy Hiscocks

  56. Beginner’s Kata — J. Sakai

  57. A Case of Mutual Aid — Joseph M. Reagle Jr.

  58. The Evolution of the Language Faculty — Marc D.Hauser, Noam Chomsky, W. Tecumseh Fitch

  59. Exiting The Vampire Castle — Mark Fisher, (k-punk)

  60. Workers Launch Wave Of Wildcat Strikes As Trump Pushes For ‘Return To Work’ Amidst Exploding Coronavirus — It’s Going Down

  61. What is Dadaism and what does it want in Germany? — Dadaist Revolutionary Central Council

  62. Liberation Theology for Quakers — Alice & Staughton Lynd

  63. Outlaw Kings and Rebellion Chic — Alister MacQuarrie

  64. Think of the (queer) children — Ava Gardener

  65. A Planned and Coordinated Anarchy — Joseph Scalice

  66. Revisiting the Model — Kim Moody

  67. You Shouldn’t Have to Pay to Be Alive — Lavra Tamutus

  68. Imagining an optimistic cyber-future — Tech Learning Collective

  69. The Shape of Things to Come — J. Sakai

  70. International Council Correspondence, Volume 1, Issue 1 — International Council Correspondence

  71. The Gender Binary Is a Tool of White Supremacy — Kravitz M.

  72. Democratic Nation — Abdullah Öcalan

  73. DIY Template for Horizontal Bylaws — Usufruct Collective

  74. Strike Strategy — John Steuben

  75. The Authoritarians — Bob Altemeyer

  76. Leaves of Grass — Walt Whitman

  77. The Life and Writings of Severine — Severine

  78. Intellectual Property — The Anarchist Library

  79. Christian Theology of the Homosexual Reaction

  80. The Coworker — David Graeber

  81. Eclipse and Re Emergence of the Communist Movement — Francois Martin and Jean Barrot Aka Gilles Dauve

  82. Esperanto and Anarchism — Will Firth

  83. What's Wrong With Postanarchism — Jesse Cohnand & Shawn Wilbur

  84. Antonio Tellez Sola Anarchist International Octavio

  85. Cornelius 168precisely

  86. Rick Astley a Left Nrx Manifesto

  87. Aldo Perego Alfredo M

  88. Beforeactivate Change

  89. Bob Blek Uprazdnenie Raboty

  90. De Ric Shannon and J

  91. Janeaddamscollective

  92. Nomadicnegativist

  93. The Dialectical Delinquents

A Table of Some of the Deleted Texts

Title Deleted reason Research Notes Subtitle Author Topics Date Source Notes Date Published on T@L
1. Finbar Cafferkey: The life and death of an Irish fighter ‘who put his money where his mouth is’ in Ukraine not anarchist, only mentions they were helped by anarchists I think the network of internationalist and anarchist support for the Ukranian people is an important and inspiring subject. ‘He was quite pragmatic about it’: Family and comrades tell the story of how an Achill islander (45) wound up first in Syria and later in Ukraine Conor Gallagher and Daniel McLaughlin 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finbar Cafferkey, Ireland, anti-imperialism, eulogy, obituary July 15, 2023 Retrieved on 4th September 2023 from 2023-09-04
2. The Virtual Fatory as per yea. Anton Freinen spectacle, social sciences, situationist, post-situationism, post-industrial 12/10/2017
3. Armenia doesn’t need another political party — it needs a MOVEMENT! deleted Armenian Libertarian-Socialist Movement Armenia, political parties, social movements, Libertarian Socialism February 8, 2007 Retrieved on 27th January 2021 from
4. Communization and the abolition of gender deleted From Communization and its discontents: Contestation, critique, and contemporary struggles Maya Andrea Gonzalez communisation, gender abolition, gender nihilism, gender 2011
5. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto i can see the light, but not taking me there Aaron Swartz civil disobedience, copyright, hacktivism July 2008, Eremo, Italy Retrieved on 2017-10-21 from 2017-10-21
6. Economic Battle accidentally published, pending review Andrew Klemenčič praxis October 1906 Prolatarec, Vol. 1 No. 1 Translated by CarniolanLeshy
7. Child Molestation vs. Child Love deleted for now pending further conversation Wolfi’s philosophy and creative writing style has been the subject of popular discussions among anarchists, so it would be valuable to see a critique of how Wolfi marshaled his particular political philosophy in defense of child sexual abuse. Also, so that people can feel better prepared to be able to notice and critique this kind of apologia for abuse if it’s ever taken up by other people in one’s own life. Critically Annotated by Black Oak Clique Feral Faun sex, criticism, egoism, critique 2019, 1987 2019-08-26
8. A Tyranny Of Editors deleted, pending further review How Wikipedia Became Another System of Oppression Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl censorship, transphobia September 8th, 2020 2020-09-09
9. All Days Matter! deleted, pending further review Why Celebrate Just This One Day? Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl anti-racism, black lives matter December 25, 2020 2020-12-25
10. Anarchism Before Labels deleted, pending further review The Eternal and Constant Gardeners Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl post-left, anarchism without adjectives September 13th, 2020 2020-09-12
11. Identity Poltics Are Boring As Fuck deleted, pending further review But So Are Your Leftist Politics After Twenty Fucking Years Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl anti-politics, post-left September 23, 2020 2020-09-27
12. Insurrectional Nihilism deleted, pending further review There Is No Hope, Therefore We Rebel Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl anarcho-nihilism, nihilism, insurrectionary anarchy, insurrectionism July 30, 2020 2020-08-06
13. Second Wave “Feminism” Is Feminism... deleted, pending further review ...In the Same Way That National “Socialism” Is Socialism Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl transphobia, racism, fascism December 24, 2020 2020-12-27
14. The Fox Knows the Hen deleted, pending further review Deconstructing the Token Minority Defense Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl tokenism, racism, transphobia, oppression, liberalism June 5, 2020 2020-06-05
15. The Ones Who Came Back to Omelas deleted, pending further review A Sequel to The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl fan fiction, fiction, science fiction, insurrectionism September 2, 2020 2020-09-23
16. White Supremacy Is a Disease deleted, pending further review And the Only Cure Is Anarchy Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl anti-racism, insurrectionary December 23, 2020 2020-12-27
17. A Tranarchist Manifesto deleted, pending further review Transgender, Transhuman, Anarchism Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl Anarcho-Transhuman, anarcho-transhumanism, transgender December 22, 2019 2020-02-04
18. ‘Human Rights’ and the Discontinuous Mind Discussion pending Anonymous anthropocentrism, anti-civilisation, biology, evolution, human rights, science 16th July 2011 Retrieved on September 19th, 2011 from 2011-09-19
19. Chile: Anatomy of an economic miracle, 1970–1986 discussion pending Black Flag Black Flag, Chile, 1973, neoliberalism 1999 Retrieved on September 11th 2013 From 2013-09-11
20. The IWW in Canada G. Jewell IWW, Canada, unions, syndicalism <> Leaflet on the birth and history of the Canadian section of Industrial Workers of the World. 2013-08-07
21. Ableism at the Anarchy Fair DELETED pending conversation Anonymous COVID-19, pandemic, bookfair, ableism, communique 11/25/2023 Retrieved on 2023-11-28 from <> 2023-11-28
22. Chinese Anarchism for the 21th Century pending discussion The case for unique principles and ideology for the development of a Chinese identity within anarchist politics and the wider socio-political sphere Li Meiyi Chinese Anarchism, 21st century March 10, 2018 Retrieved on 15th April 2021 from
23. Capitalist Education and Learned Helplessness Shaun Riley on learned helplessness in relation to capitalist education Shaun Riley education, revolution August 2013 Freedom News, Vol 74, August 2013, Page 7. <> 2024-05-16
24. Think for Yourself, Question Authority to the bin for now, pending further review Arno Ruthofer accelerationism, artificial intelligence, chaos, computers, counterculture, cybernetics, death, democracy, drugs, futurism, futurist, Genetic Engineering, Internet, nanotechnology, quantum physics, religion, space, spirituality, technology, transhumanism, Timothy Leary 1997 Retrieved on 14th April 2020 from 2020-04-14
25. Political Prisoners, Prisons, and Black Liberation unpublished pending further conversation Angela Y. Davis police, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, Black Liberation, prison, United States of America, Not Anarchist May, 1971 <> This is a good short video to go along with the reading: <> 2021-03-03
26. The Anarchistic Devil unpublished, need to research author and txt a bit more Stephen Edred Flowers atheism, civilization, God, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, materialism, Mikhail Bakunin, spirituality 1997 Lords of the Left-Hand Path: A History of Spiritual Dissent
27. The Devil and Karl Marx Stephen Edred Flowers atheism, communism, dialectics, God, Hegel, Karl Marx, marxism, materialism, rationalism, religion 1997 Lords of the Left-Hand Path: A History of Spiritual Dissent. <> 2024-05-16
28. The Left-Overs not anarchist Cool critique of a small post-left to fascist pipeline. How Fascists Court the Post-Left Alexander Reid Ross anti-fascism; fascism; fascist creep; post-left; criticism and critique; anarcho-primitivism; Bob Black; ELF; green anarchism; Hakim Bey; John Zerzan; Lawrence Jarach; Max Stirner; nihilism 29 March, 2017 Retrieved on 28 September, 2022 from Alexander Reid Ross is a former co-editor of the Earth First! Journal and the author of Against the Fascist Creep. He teaches in the Geography Department at Portland State University and can be reached at <>. 2022-09-28
29. Where did all the tankies come from? transphobia. can discuss. removing for now. see comment. I disagree that the one sentence was necessarily transphobic. How anarchists fucked up and by inaction created the tankie resurgence William Gillis Authoritarian Left 16th August 2020 Retrieved on 14th January 2020 from 2021-01-14
30. Thirty Years Ago Today I Shot My First Fascist DELETED is this by an anarchist? doesn’t use the word, couldn’t find info about it online Anarchist internationalists often write under local names given to them during their service. It feels very relevant to the current bombing of Gaza and anarchist participation in protests against the bombings. Anonymous, but posted at the same time as a public PLO volunteer with a similar story. Ali Al-Aswad anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, history, Palestine, armed struggle 30.07.2008 <> 2024-03-06
31. Towards a New Oceania author not anarchist Albert Wendt anti-colonialism, postcolonialism, Pacific-Islands, culture, purity, Christianity 1976 Retrieved on 4/10/2023 from 2023-04-11
32. Anarchism and Immigration author supports prison, see “The Anarchist Response to Crime” Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective borders, immigration, Insurgency Culture Collective, syndicalist Retrieved on January 1, 2005 from 2010-01-12
33. Anarchists Hate Racism author supports prison, see “The Anarchist Response to Crime” Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective anti-racist, class, Insurgency Culture Collective, race, syndicalist, United States Retrieved on January 1, 2005 from 2010-01-09
34. Black Trans Feminist Thought Can Set Us Free deleted no mention of anarchist word Che Gossett transfeminism, black transfeminism, abolition, black liberation 9 December 2020 Retrieved on 14 December 2022 from 2022-12-15
35. Epistemelogical Anarchism Doesn’t seem to be anarchist in orientation. The Philosophy of Jeet Kun Do Danielle Bolelli Martial Arts, Jeet Kun Do, Bruce Lee, Taoism, Nietzsche, Buddhism, Nihilism 2003 On The Warrior’s Path Philosophy, Fighting and Martial Arts Mythology (Second Edition, 2003) 2021-12-27
36. Against Anarcho-Putinism fascist-apologetic (specifically Azov regiment, etc.) and cop-jacketing Debunking Russian propaganda among anarchists about Russian-Ukrainian war Dark Night Russia, anti-militarism, Ukraine, war, 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine December 2022
37. Insurrection and Production I read this. It’s about seizing state power, establishing a ‘transition period’ etc. ‘Insurrection’ does not refer to Bonnanno, Weir etc. References include Group of International Communists, Paul Mason (UK Labour party), Trotsky, ‘Bolchevik foreign policy,’ etc. An empirically heavy mind-game for the debate on working class strategy: First steps in a six-month revolutionary transition period in the UK region Angry Workers of the World communization, insurrectionary, revolution, libertarian communism August 2016 2021-03-08
38. A way propounded to make the poor in these and other nations happy It was decided that this utopian text is not proto-anarchist or anarchistic. By bringing together a fit suitable and well qualified people unto one Houshold-government, or little-Common-wealth. Pieter Corneliszoon Plockhoy not-anarchist, utopianism, political philosophy, cooperatives, utopia, Christian 1659 Plockhoy, a Dutch radical, wrote this plan of a proto-socialist society during the regime of Cromwell. His vision was of a society in which no one was opressed or exploited, people where equals, and labour was organized cooperatively. A society that was based on Christian virtues of justice, love, and solidarity. And lastly a society that was freed from the yoke of evil people, espicially those who managed ‘to live from the labour of others’. Although Cromwell showed interested in his petitions to establish his idealized societies in England, he died and Plockhoy was unable to get support from Cromwell’s sucessors. Eventually he led a Dutch utopian colony to the the New World near the older abondened colony of Swaanendael (present day Lewes, Delaware), but within 13 months the colony had been crushed by the English, where during or some while after Plockhoy is presumed to have died. 2021-09-06
39. The Problem with Nonprofits no anarchist word Adapted from Another Slice Another Slice industrial complex, nonprofits, capitalism, activism 09/26/2020 2023-04-07
40. Whoring Out Our Trauma no anarchist word, anarchy, anarchism. looks interesting, but not specifically anarchist it seems Prostitution and Sexual Abuse Jack Parker sex work 1/3/23 Retrieved on 1st March 2023 from
41. Imagination and the Carceral State none of the four texts mention anarchist word Joshua Bennett blackness, abolition December 2020 — January 2021 Retrieved on 14 December 2022 from 2022-12-15
42. A Half Revolution: Making Sense of EDSA ’86 and Its Failures not anarchist Allen Severino after the revolution, reformism, Bourgeois ideology, Philippines 2021 This is originally published in Esquire as a sort of a critical retrospect on the EDSA Revolution from a perspective that it has failed to deliver anything or everything, aside from the return of the status quo. For all intents and purposes, we can say that EDSA is nothing more but a conservative restoration. It hides itself in a progressive veneer from time to time, while justifying the repressions and atrocities that its agents have comitted against the people in the name of its ideals. 2021-02-03
43. Life After Patriarchy not anarchist Three Reflections on the Coming Revolution Alnoor Ladha patriarchy MARCH 6, 2018
44. Pushed by the Violence of Our Desires not anarchist Anonymous anarcha-feminism, feminism, 1970s 1991 Retrieved on 7/17/2023 from Notes from the zine: This piece was written anonymously. Published in Italian Feminist Thought: A Reader, 1991, edited by Paola Bonno, Sandra Kemp. Thanks & love to Yadira and “the team”. 2023-07-17
45. Black liberal, your time is up not anarchist Yes, tell the world that we are fed up. But, Black liberal, know that we are finished with you, too. Yannick Giovanni Marshall George Floyd uprising, black liberation, anti-liberalism 1 Jun 2020
46. Politics at the End of History DELETED not anarchist Cam Cannon criticism and critique, teleology, marxism, communism, anti-state, dictatorship of the proletariat July 2023 Retrieved on August 13th, 2023 from 2023-08-13
47. From Urumqi to Shanghai: Demands from Chinese and Hong Kong Socialists DELETED not anarchist A letter on strategy and solidarity with Uyghur struggle Chinese and Hong Kong socialists China, social movements, solidarity, internationalism, strategy, indigenous solidarity, social control, settler colonialism November 28th, 2022 Retrieved on November 28th, 2022 from This is an expanded version of a letter written by Chinese and Hong Kong socialists on the mainland and overseas on the night of 26 November 2022, when protests first erupted. The abridged Chinese version first appeared in Borderless Movement ( on 27 November. This version has been revised through the weekend as events developed. Republished with permission. 2022-11-28
48. Burning Bridges not anarchist Disconnecting From White Culture and Fighting for Liberation Curtis Fields and Brooke Harter anti-racism, anti-capitalism, direct action, whiteness, community organizing October 18, 2021 2022-03-25
49. A history of true civilisation is not one of monuments not anarchist David Wengrow archaeology, anthropology, civilization, cosmopolitanism, ancient history 2 October 2018 Retrieved on 20 March 2023 from 2023-03-20
50. Rethinking cities, from the ground up David Wengrow anthropology, archaeology, gatherer-hunters, cities, prehistory, ancient history 4 September 2019 <> 2023-03-20
51. What Women Should Know About Communism He Yin Zhen Communism, Anarcha-feminism, Feminism 1907 <> The intellectual life of early twentieth century China was a rich mixture of Confucian scholarship (clearly a fading tradition), along with a variety of western ideas — social Darwinism, feminism, anarchism, anti-Manchu revolutionary thought and so on. 2021-06-08
52. Community Control, Workers’ Control, and the Cooperative Commonwealth not anarchist Howard “Howie” Hawkins green anarchism January 1, 1993 Society and Nature: The International Journal of Social Ecology, Vol. 3 (January 1993) A shorter version of this article appeared in Regeneration: A Magazine of Left Green Social Thought, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Summer 1991). Howard Hawkins is a founding member of both the Green Party USA and the Left Green Network. He lives in Syracuse, New York, where he is Director of CommonWorks, a federation of worker and consumer cooperatives. 2020-12-04
53. And The War Drags On DELETED not anarchist Internationalist Perspective criticism and critique, 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, class war, anti-war April 16th, 2023 Retrieved on August 29th, 2023 from 2023-08-30
54. Fathers and Children not anarchist I think it would be a good not-anarchist literature exception since it's relevant to Emma Goldman's life tragectory, etc. Ivan Turgenev nihilism, fiction, not anarchist 1862 Retrieved on 3rd November 2021 from Translated by Constance Clara Garnett. 2024-05-16
55. Basic Politics of Movement Security deleted not anarchist J. Sakai, Mandy Hiscocks g20, operational security, opsec, security, security culture, informant, surveillance 2013 Retrieved on May 2, 2021 from
56. Beginner’s Kata deleted not anarchist uncensored stray thoughts on revolutionary organization J. Sakai anarchist organization, organization, not-anarchist, organizing December 4, 2018 Text: Cover: Publisher: Kersplebedeb. 2021-06-09
57. A Case of Mutual Aid not anarchist Wikipedia, Politeness, and Perspective Taking Joseph M. Reagle Jr. Wikipedia, mutual aid 2004 Retrieved on 26th November 2022 from 2022-11-26
58. The Evolution of the Language Faculty not anarchist I know it risks modern day anarchism being seen as a chomsky cult, but I think it’s possibly good to see one text on Chomsky’s academic chops. It’s a useful part of the equation of whether he has anything useful to say, since his motivation behind studying language is also connected to his desire to see massive societal change: Clarifications and implications Marc D.Hauser, Noam Chomsky, W. Tecumseh Fitch evolution, language September 2005 Retrieved on 11th September 2021 from ISSN 0022–2860. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2005.02.005 2021-09-11
59. Exiting The Vampire Castle Not anarchist Mark Fisher, (k-punk) call outs, liberalism, identity politics, acid communism November 22 2013
60. Workers Launch Wave Of Wildcat Strikes As Trump Pushes For ‘Return To Work’ Amidst Exploding Coronavirus not anarchist enough It’s Going Down COVID-19, United States, general strike March 26, 2020 Retrieved on 2020-04-02 from 2020-04-02
61. What is Dadaism and what does it want in Germany? not anarchist, but open for more discussion on this one Dadaist Revolutionary Central Council dada, German Revolution, art, communism 1919 Retrieved on 8th June 2021 from Manifesto written by Richard Huelsenbeck and Raoul Hausmann, first published in ‘Der Dada 1’ (1919), in the context of the unfolding, German revolution. 2021-06-08
62. Liberation Theology for Quakers Not anarchist. Alice & Staughton Lynd Liberation Theology; Quakers; religion; Nicaragua; Catholicism April 1996 2022-10-09
63. Outlaw Kings and Rebellion Chic Not anarchist. Alister MacQuarrie liberalism March 27, 2019 Retrieved on 25 October 2023 from 2023-10-26
64. Think of the (queer) children Not anarchist. Minnesota’s sex education requirements fail LGBTQ+ youth Ava Gardener LGBTQ+ identities CW: Within this op-ed I discuss experiences of homophobic/transpobic assault/abuse implied to be of a sexual nature; if you need support, crisis counseling, or advocacy please contact the Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education at 612-626-9111 or Outfront Minnesota at 800-800-0350. 2021-12-13
65. A Planned and Coordinated Anarchy not anarchist. The Barricades of 1971 and the “Diliman Commune” Joseph Scalice Philippines, student movement, commune, anarchy, history, Stalinism, communist party, communism December 2018 Retrieved on 2020-09-03 from Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints, December 2018. DOI: 10.1353/phs.2018.0035 2020-09-20
66. Revisiting the Model Not anarchist. Thoughts on Jane McAlevey’s Plan For Union Power Kim Moody Labor Union, trade unions, syndicalism, labor notes 2021-09-28
67. You Shouldn’t Have to Pay to Be Alive Not anarchist. Reasons and Direct Action Possibilities for Labor-Free Income Lavra Tamutus universal basic income, common resources, plutocracy, ableism, direct action, guaranteed income, anti-work, resource-based economy, social profit, wealth November 26, 2021 Retrieved on December 28, 2012 from Originally rejected from an essay submission about Guaranteed Income, then edited and published online by Moneyless Society on November 26, 2021. You can check out and jump into the project I’m working on at 2021-12-29
68. Imagining an optimistic cyber-future Not anarchist. Tech Learning Collective 2021-01-05 Retrieved on 2021-02-28 from 2021-03-01
69. The Shape of Things to Come Not anarchist. If I recall correctly, we mean to exclude J. Sakai from the library. J. Sakai Marxism, anti-imperialism, history, criticism and critique, world-systems theory August 2023 “The Shape of Things to Come: Selected Writings And Interviews” by J. Sakai, published by Kersplebedeb (ISBN: 9781989701218) Includes Part I and II of the interview from 2020 and 2022, title is the same as the collection it was published in. Footnotes adapted from “Marginalized Notes / Monday Nov. 28, 2022” by J. Sakai 2024-02-01
70. International Council Correspondence, Volume 1, Issue 1 Not specifically anti-statist. International Council Correspondence Council Communism, Libertarian marxism, paul mattick October 1934 Retrieved on 7/19/23 from <> 2023-07-19
71. The Gender Binary Is a Tool of White Supremacy Not sure if this is anarchist. A brief history of gender expansiveness — and how colonialism slaughtered it Kravitz M. gender, white supremacy, colonialism 14 July 2021 Retrieved on 27 October 2021 from 2021-10-27
72. Democratic Nation this text is literally about state formation. not anarchist. Abdullah Öcalan democratic confederalism, decentralization, Direct Democracy, democracy 2016 2019-08-02
73. DIY Template for Horizontal Bylaws Usufruct Collective is libertarian socialist but not all of their texts ought be on the library Usufruct Collective assembly, democratic assemblies, Direct Democracy, constitution 04/04/22 added all relevant features 2022-11-12
74. Strike Strategy DELETED writer is not anarchist A practical manual for labor on the conduct of strikes John Steuben labor, strike, union, labor organizing, wildcat strike, organizing 1950 Retrieved on 3/13/2022 from <> 2022-11-25
75. The Authoritarians The mid-term elections of 2006 give hope that the best values and traditions of the country will ultimately prevail.’ can we not? deleted pending discussion. Bob Altemeyer authoritarianism, not anarchist 2006 Retrieved on 7th April 2021 from 2021-04-07
76. Leaves of Grass for now, published by accident. Walt Whitman sex, sexuality, free love, poetry, individualist anarchism, individualism 1855
77. The Life and Writings of Severine Text not archived. Severine
78. Intellectual Property Text not archived. The Anarchist Library
79. Christian Theology of the Homosexual Reaction Text not archived.
80. The Coworker Text not archived/Possible scraping error. David Graeber
81. Eclipse and Re Emergence of the Communist Movement Text not archived. Francois Martin and Jean Barrot Aka Gilles Dauve
82. Esperanto and Anarchism Text not archived. Will Firth
83. What’s Wrong With Postanarchism Text not archived. Jesse Cohnand & Shawn Wilbur
84. Antonio Tellez Sola Anarchist International Octavio Possible scraping error.
85. Cornelius 168precisely Possible scraping error.
86. Rick Astley a Left Nrx Manifesto Possible scraping error.
87. Aldo Perego Alfredo M Possible scraping error.
88. Beforeactivate Change Possible scraping error.
89. Bob Blek Uprazdnenie Raboty Possible scraping error.
90. De Ric Shannon and J Possible scraping error.
91. Janeaddamscollective Possible scraping error.
92. Nomadicnegativist Possible scraping error.
93. The Dialectical Delinquents Possible scraping error.

1. Finbar Cafferkey: The life and death of an Irish fighter ‘who put his money where his mouth is’ in Ukraine

Deleted reason: not anarchist, only mentions they were helped by anarchists

Subtitle: ‘He was quite pragmatic about it’: Family and comrades tell the story of how an Achill islander (45) wound up first in Syria and later in Ukraine

Author: Conor Gallagher and Daniel McLaughlin

Authors: Conor Gallagher, Daniel McLaughlin

Topics: 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finbar Cafferkey, Ireland, anti-imperialism, eulogy, obituary

Date: July 15, 2023

Date Published on T@L: 2023-09-04T08:45:30

Source: Retrieved on 4th September 2023 from

Colm Cafferkey was getting a bag of chips in Keel on Achill Island when he got the call saying his older brother Finbar was missing in action on the front lines in Ukraine.

Finbar and two other international volunteers were fighting with Ukrainian units in April to keep open a vital supply route to the city of Bakhmut, which was on verge of being overrun by the Russian invaders.

A sustained mortar strike hit the group, causing many casualties. Amid the chaos no one could be sure what happened to the 45-year-old Mayo man.

For the next week the Cafferkey family was worried but hopeful. Finbar had a reputation for disappearing for days or weeks at a time, only to pop up in another city or country.

Colm recalls them attending 1996 All-Ireland football final between Mayo and Meath and Finbar failing to show up at an arranged meeting spot.

“He rings us a few days later and he is in London. And then he rings a week later and he’s in Holland,” Colm recalls with a smile. “He could go three months without texting you.”

A week after he first heard his brother was missing, Colm got confirmation: Finbar was killed in the strike near Bakhmut, the devastated city in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, during Europe’s bloodiest battle since the second World War. He is the third Irish man known to have been killed in the fighting since the war started in February 2022. Continued fighting and the trading of territory between the sides meant recovering his remains was impossible.

Interviews with those who knew and fought alongside Cafferkey paint him as a brave, occasionally withdrawn man who was unable to stand still for long and who was willing to make sacrifices for his beliefs, even when it meant working alongside ideological opponents.

“He put his money where his mouth is,” says Colm. “He thought long and hard about how he could help in the world.”

Growing up as one of five children in an Irish-speaking family in Achill, Cafferkey was a voracious reader. He took an interest in Irish history and the Troubles which shaped much of his republican worldview.

“He was really stubborn but really fair as well,” says Colm, four years his junior. Colm remembers his older brother figuring out at the age of six that Santa wasn’t real.

“But he didn’t tell the rest of us,” he says.

As a teen, he was “never bound by social expectations,” says Colm. “I wouldn’t say it made a loner of him but it made him stand out.”

Cafferkey went to college for a while, spent a short period with the Army Reserve and worked various jobs, including in construction. By the mid-2000s, he was drifting somewhat, his brother recalls.

That’s when he became involved in Shell to Sea. This was the grassroots protest against the construction of a gas pipeline through north Mayo, which campaigners said would pose serious health and ecological risks.

Finbar had involved himself in some activist causes before but his participation in the Shell to Sea protests was transformative.

“That was a big moment for him. Once he got in there, he couldn’t step away,” says Colm. “It set him on a certain trajectory.”

In 2015 Finbar travelled to Greece to assist the huge numbers of Middle Eastern migrants arriving in rubber dinghies on the island of Kos. It was perhaps there where he conceived of the idea of trying to address the source of the refugee crisis directly.

He never told his family he was travelling to Syria in 2017, which was then six years into a bloody and complex civil war. He enlisted with a heavy weapons unit of the YPG, a left-wing Kurdish militia that was fighting to oust Islamic State from its base in Raqqa in the north of the country.

The first time Colm knew his brother was in Syria was when a video appeared online of him wearing a traditional Kurdish scarf and carrying a Kalashnikov.

“I came here because I admire the struggle of the Kurdish people,” says Finbar on the video, drawing parallels between the YPG and the IRA.

I knew there were two new guys coming who were hardcore republicans. I was a bit wary as I had served in Northern Ireland ... I really took to Fin straight away

— A former British soldier who met Finbar Cafferkey in Syria

Colm was shocked at the video “but really proud of him as well. It’s such a step for someone to take.”

When he later spoke to Finbar, he realised he had “thought long and hard” about the decision. “He had prepared himself mentally for it. No one had brainwashed him,” he says.

While undergoing military training in Syria, Finbar met Mark Ayres, a former British army soldier.

“I met Fin in northern Syria at the YPG training academy for international volunteers,” says Ayres. “I knew there were two new guys coming who were hard-core republicans. I was a bit wary as I had served in Northern Ireland and didn’t know how we would get on. I need not have worried as I got along with both of them ... I really took to Fin straight away.”

The YPG was successful in destroying Isis, also known as Islamic State, leaving Cafferkey searching for another cause.

At the time he was sort of idle and trying to think of what he would do next. He was quite pragmatic about it. He didn’t have children. He was in a position where he thought he could help

— Colm Cafferkey

When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Colm knew immediately his brother was likely to get involved.

“At the time he was sort of idle and trying to think of what he would do next,” says Colm. “He was quite pragmatic about it. He didn’t have children. He was in a position where he thought he could help.”

Thousands of foreign fighters have travelled to Ukraine to aid in the fight against Russia, including dozens from Ireland. Some have extensive military experience; others have none.

“Some are basically kids who should never be there and are probably a danger to themselves and others around them,” says an Irish man who has fought in Ukraine who asked not to be named as he intends to return to the frontline soon.

“There’s others who tend to be older and have that bit of experience in fighting or medicine or logistics, and they can be helpful.”

Finbar Cafferkey seemed to fall in to the latter category.

“He said to me before that war is awful, that so many people are not able for it, that it ruins them,” says Colm. “He felt he was able to go to it and be around that stuff without it completely destroying him.”

Cafferkey made contact with an anarchist group in the Polish capital, Warsaw, and travelled from there to Ukraine to try to join a volunteer defence unit, preferably one made up of like-minded leftists.

But in those frantic first weeks of war, Ukraine’s forces struggled to equip all the volunteers who wanted to fight. Cafferkey returned to eastern Poland without signing up.

“I got a message that two comrades were coming and could we host them,” says a member of the Anarchist Black Cross Galicja group (ACK Galicja), who uses the pseudonym Leon Czołg.

“The other comrade was more orientated to fighting over there so he didn’t stay long. But Ciya stayed,” he adds, using the nom-de-guerre Finbar took in Syria.

Czołg first met Finbar and the other man, who is from Scandinavia, in ACK Galicja’s warehouse in eastern Poland, where he found them “tearing apart” bulky boxes of medical supplies and turning them into lightweight combat first-aid kits.

“They looked like serious, proper guys ... That’s what struck me from the beginning. They had only just arrived but they wanted to put their energy straight into the warehouse without messing around,” he says.

Cafferkey began making aid delivery runs to places deeper and deeper inside Ukraine, eventually to eastern Donbas, near the front line.

“He would come with a vehicle and say, ‘I have got a week or two and I will go wherever you tell me,’” says Sergey Movchan, an organiser in Kyiv for anti-authoritarian volunteer network Solidarity Collectives, which sends supplies to civilians and soldiers in Ukraine.

“Maybe he had some fear but he didn’t show any. He was very calm and kind and willing to help.”

On one run to Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, which was then under daily shelling, Finbar reconnected with Mark Ayres.

“A few times I tried to talk him into joining my unit. He always declined and said he would carry on helping civilians ... I was shocked to learn that he joined up,” says Ayres.

Cafferkey is thought to have revived his initial aim of taking up arms when he heard about plans to form the kind of leftist unit he had sought at the start of the war.

Its commander was Dmitry Petrov, a leading light in the anarchist underground in Russia with a long record of opposition to the regime of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Petrov had also spent time with Kurdish guerrillas in Syria and Iraq.

“It was a surprise for me that Ciya [Finbar Cafferkey] decided to join Leshiy’s unit,” says Sergey Movchan, of the anti-authoritarian volunteer network Solidarity Collectives, using one of Petrov’s many pseudonyms.

“Before he went to training, I asked Ciya whether maybe this was not the best time – there was very heavy fighting near Bakhmut, lots of people were being injured and dying, and my Facebook page was like one big obituary.”

Cafferkey and some anarchist comrades were so eager to join they agreed to train for a month under the Bratstvo (Brotherhood) battalion linked to a far-right Christian movement.

In March, Petrov and Cafferkey met in Kyiv with former US marine Cooper “Harris” Andrews and an activist from a Ukrainian environmental group who uses the pseudonym “Yenot” (Raccoon), before travelling to the Bratstvo training ground.

“We all decided that we can spend a few weeks with these guys because we have a bigger goal, and after this we can start something of our own,” says Yenot (26).

“It was actually better than expected. Every day there were things we didn’t like – their symbols and songs, for example – but in general it was all right ... There was no hostility. We were all in the same situation and wanted to train. We were on same side, fighting the same enemy.”

One trainer was “Madzh”, a Bratstvo fighter who says Finbar performed well with physical and weapons training. Around this time the Mayo man took a new nom-de-guerre, Osyp, a traditional Ukrainian name.

On April 17th the Bratstvo fighters and the four anarchists drove east through the night to a town near Bakhmut and the so-called road of life, which was the last open supply route for Ukrainian troops fighting a rearguard action in the ruined city.

Cafferkey, Petrov and Andrews were assigned to a combat platoon and Yenot to a medical unit that would treat the wounded.

“Before the fight they were optimistic, with a good fighting spirit. I clearly remember Harris repeating the phrase: ‘We come and they die.’ Ciya seemed calm, as always, and confident,” says Yenot.

“I said I wished we could have a beer together, and Leshiy replied: ‘Don’t worry, we will finish this mission and when we have won, we will have a beer.’”

Madzh remembers Finbar having a moment of doubt before the battle, as he says happens quite often in such situations.

Finbar said he had a bad feeling about the mission, prompting his commander to suggest he should stay behind. “But Finbar said, no, he wasn’t going to leave the group.”

The operation started on the morning of April 19th.

“An eyewitness, someone who was in combat there, told me it was a horrible scene. There were a lot of corpses from both sides in those trenches,” says Yenot.

“Someone on the radio said the guys were about 100m from the enemy, and it sounded like they would soon finish their job. I didn’t know that the real hell was about to begin.”

Footage from the road at this time shows shell-blasted fields criss-crossed by trenches where soldiers struggled through thick mud and clambered past crumpled bodies.

“It was near Bakhmut, so everything was firing: artillery, tanks, rifles, drones dropping grenades,” says Madzh.

“There were lot of explosions there, happening all the time. The land is full of craters from explosions. A Kalashnikov is like a children’s toy there.”

Yenot says Russian mortars landed to the right and left of her comrades before directly hitting their trench.

“One of the commanders said Ciya [Cafferkey] and Harris had been killed,” she says. Leshiy was later confirmed dead, too.

The grief felt by the men’s anarchist friends was compounded by Bratstvo’s claim that they had “joined” the far-right Christian movement with “strange leftist beliefs” but had subsequently “learned to respect faith and love God” and “took part in worship”.

In the Kyiv office where he last saw Cafferkey, Movchan recalls the Achill man telling him how training with Bratstvo had been “funny and weird and he had really thought about quitting”.

“But they decided, basically, to get through this and then they would have their own unit without all this religious bullshit,” adds Movchan.

Photographs of the three dead men stand in the Solidarity Collectives office, where in May dozens of people, including Petrov’s parents, gathered to honour them. Finbar’s family joined the event by video link.

“Many people would ask Ciya what he, an Irish person, was doing in Ukraine,” says Movchan. “And Ciya would reply that he had decided that he could be useful here, and he had time.”

When news of Finbar’s death was confirmed in Ireland, Tánaiste Micheál Martin paid tribute to him in the Dáil, calling him a “man of clear principles”. It was a relatively uncontroversial statement from the Government, which didn’t want to be seen to be encouraging people to travel to Ukraine to fight.

But it caught the ire of Russia’s ambassador to Dublin, Yuriy Filatov, whose embassy issued a statement blaming the media and the Irish Government for Finbar’s death in a Russian mortar strike.

“We also do not know if Mr Martin’s remarks signify support for the Irish to take part in combat in Ukraine, but we do know that if that is the case, then Ireland would be the direct participant of the conflict with all the ensuing consequences,” the embassy said.

The remarks drew a furious response leading to calls for Filatov’s expulsion. Colm Cafferkey, still coming to terms with his brother’s death, was not comfortable with the furore. He saw various sides, including supporters of Nato, trying to lay claim to his brother’s memory.

He issued his own statement. Finbar was, he said, against “all forms of imperialism, be it US, British, or Russian, and was strongly opposed to Ireland’s support of US troops and any moves towards joining Nato”.

The statement continued: “He was in Ukraine to help the Ukrainian people, as he would have helped any person in the world who was under attack.”

Looking back, Colm says he owed it to Finbar to clarify his position. “He wouldn’t have been any more in favour of Nato than he was the Russian gang.”

The Cafferkey family are still grieving as they await the return of Finbar’s remains, which are stored in a Ukrainian military base, alongside many others, awaiting formal identification.

It may be several more months before repatriation can occur and a funeral can be held.

“We’ll bring him home, le cúnamh Dé,” his father, Tom, said at a memorial service on Achill in May.

Does he hold any anger towards his brother for putting himself in such a dangerous situation? Colm pauses to think.

“That hasn’t hit me yet,” he says. “It feels like the really heavy emotions are still out in front of me still ... but it’s not anger. He knew what he was doing. He wouldn’t have had regrets.”

2. The Virtual Fatory

Deleted reason: as per yea.

Author: Anton Freinen

Topics: spectacle, social sciences, situationist, post-situationism, post-industrial

Date: 12/10/2017

Notes: L’Usine Virtuel, Anton Freinen

A new kind of factory was birthed by the technological devloppement of capitalist society, the virtual factory, subset of the social factory, a factory without walls and billions of uncounscious cyber-proletarians, producing commodified social value in it, the perfect capitalist production, where the proletariat volontarly produce value for the cyber-capitalists owning the the virtual factory.

Of course this value is one that is fictitious and real only for the capitalists, despite our modernity, a modern re-lecture of Marx would give us an insight that the virtual factory was already there, if you read between the lines of The Capital, the virtual factory is already predicted, it is a logical devloppement in a techno-capitalist society ; before proletarians were only alienated from their labor, now they are alienated from their own social life that has been commodified in the virtual factory, but of course as Debord tells us « The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images. » Thus the virtual factory can be understood as an accumulation of commodified social relations mediated by images in a new form of production of capitalist value.

This is the perfect capitalist production because it necessitates no physical ressource production, effectively creating a circle economy that only feed itself, without producing anything real, and the techno-proletarians do not require wages or material, they already possess the material in the form of social interactions, the techno-proletarian now even define his identity with the commodity, the commodity now define his identity within the frame of spectacle, « I appear therefore i am » says Debord, this could not be more true in the virtual factory where appearing is the only goal, over being, any authenticity, authenticity is defined by the models of identification, in the vitual factory, the individual will be satisfied more if he can match perfectly these models and becomes himself a model of identification, an agent of spectacle.

The virtual factory will only grow to occupy most of modern production if the present conditions persist, with the automation, this virtual factory will become the main source labor value production, a facotry without walls and laborers who produce value indefinitely with only a sublte cohersion done through models of identification, inciting volontary servitude to commodity and Capital, while the disciple of Lenin, Stalin and Mao would probably want to make the virtual factory « socialist », in the hand of the « workers state », because they are left-wing of Capital, on the other hand we want to tear it down, now must not only abolish labor but also virtual labor, for that, traditional methods of anti-capitalists struggle are useless, we must take direct action to create a counter-spectacle to take down the virtual factory, create situatons to pull the cyber-proletarian away from seat of spectator until we reach the revolutionary situation.

3. Armenia doesn’t need another political party — it needs a MOVEMENT!

Deleted reason: deleted

Author: Armenian Libertarian-Socialist Movement

Topics: Armenia, political parties, social movements, Libertarian Socialism

Date: February 8, 2007

Source: Retrieved on 27th January 2021 from

The fact that there are so many parties in Armenia might not actually be a bad development (given that there is the right type of constitutional setting to cater for such a development). Of course, that’s not what the Rebiblican and Parliamentary system desire, but at least it shows that people care and are involved with political life of the country.

Now it’s not something that should be disqualified as a necessarily ill development on the grounds that it won’t work within the configurations of Parliamentarianism (after all the struggle should be to make Democracy work, and not the Representative Parliamentarism). Instead, we should be asking how to re-structure the political system in such a way that would accomodate and make the best use of such political diversification (something that many political scientists, for instance, would praise).


As the parliamentary elections rapidly approach, and as the political campaigning in the form of Kartofil-distribution has already began, it is both interesting to observe the hopes for democratic processes, but at the same time, it is all ultimately laughable. No, I’m not talking only about the quality of arguments and the level at which they take place. What is really amusing is the way that there are so many political parties, all feeding into the same game-plan. Their discourses are all so predictable: “the truth is on our side, we know what people think, we are going to get elected” (or at least, “we are going to get minimum of so-many seats”), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And the media is following (or maybe, initiating) the same mode of discourse – the same game-plan.

Sooner of later this field of democratic Babel is going to crystallize into groups, camps, tribes (call it what you will)… there will be Conservatives (Republican Party &Co), Liberals (all so many), and if we’re lucky, maybe some Pseudo-Socialists (like Labour or Pasok). This is the end of the game-plan. Soon we will be left with simple choice of either voting for the Puppet-on-the-Right or the Puppet-on-the-Left. It is already predetermined by the structure of the system, which will lead us to Pseudo-Democracies like in so many Republics in the west or around the world.

When I hear those passionate speeches (from both/all of the sides) about how they are going to emerge victorious and finally set things right and bring the near-messianic Bright Future or Prosperity or Democracy or Strength and Power (or all of these together), I sense that idiotic, dogmatic and narcissistic overtone that defined the great dictators of the 20th century who competed to shape that century to their will.

Question: where do these people get such a confidence and arrogance that they know better?… know better what all of the Armenian people need and want? … know better how to conduct diplomacy and foreign affairs? …know better how to stimulate socially, environmentally and ethically responsible economical growth? They all strike me as ultimately POPULIST!

The current debates, as they do within all Pseudo-Democratic structures, revolve around personalities. But there is no sense of Direction – no sense of a systematic analysis or perspective; no sense of intellectual vigour that could mobilise the people into that great sense of immediacy and engagedness that was in the air in 1987–1991 (please don’t get me wrong, I’m not proposing that Armenia needs yet another idee-fix or ideology). Instead, the stand-up “politicians”, in accordance to the good Liberalist protocols, point fingers at each other: they question each others virtues, abilities, personalities, appearances, views, and (mostly, standardized) policies, but they don’t question the STRUCTURE!

In effect, they all, universally miss out the broader picture. After all it is the structure – the setting, within which the game-plan of political life is set, that already predetermines the outcome. There is an overwhelming sense of tyrannical Lust for Power in all of their speeches. It’s almost like listening to a child who due to his small size and powerlessness, finds himself doing all sorts of absurd things so as to gain attention and to pretend that his is in control. “I am the Lizard King, I’ll get you anything. Will you die for me?” There is also an antiquarian notion of “Power” and how the Power works, that these people seem to inherit from the 20th century. They still inherit that 18th century rationalist belief that Power works from top down – that a perfectly rational and ordered society can be organised by decrees from the Central Command-Post down the lowest strata of society. Maybe, if these people are so clever, they need to read what 20th century social scientists had to say on how Power really works.

The internal dynamics of Society and Culture are quite distinct from those of the perfect hierarchy of a disciplined Army. This is something that Armenian politicians and “Social Scientists (Statisticians)” alike will need to get through their thick skulls sooner or later, if they wish to move into the 21st century. Power can only work in a harmonious and, indeed, powerful way only when it springs from below to the top – when a society and its institutions and processes are organised from bottom up, and not from top down. (Please pause to contemplate this proposition). For this reason, Armenia does not need yet another political Party that will rally like a stand-up comedian or a stand-up philistine or a stand-up imbecile. Political parties are the institutions of the 20th century (for instance, in UK Labour membership is down to 110,000 and Conservatives have only 70,000 memebrs left). Parties are institutions of the past: this is the information age, not the industrial age. Parties are institutions that can, and soon are, controlled by the economical elite (oligarchs and bankers). They are good instruments for deceiving people and temporarily controlling the mass, while strip-robbing the country and its people, but one thing that they are not good for, is for cultivating a culture of participatory democracy, dignity, integrity, self-respect, pride and Power. What Armenia needs today is a MOVEMENT. Yes, a Pan-National Movement that would start from the grassroots of the lowest of social classes; which will be driven not by central leadership, but by an idea/platform and a set of principles and ethics; which will first prioritise direct on-the-ground activism of Empowering people, over gaining parliamentary seats; which would help peasants, and later workers, to restructure their modes of production and decision-making in such a way that would allow them to conquer and control their own governance (restructure the constitution along the Swiss model), culture, knowledge, finances and production. Only through this Movement can we once again regain that sense of immediacy, directness and engagedness with our land, our country, our history and our future.

4. Communization and the abolition of gender

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Subtitle: From Communization and its discontents: Contestation, critique, and contemporary struggles

Author: Maya Andrea Gonzalez

Topics: communisation, gender abolition, gender nihilism, gender

Date: 2011


“Present day civilization makes it plain that it will only permit sexual relationships on the basis of a solitary, indissoluble bond between one man and one woman, and that it does not like sexuality as a source of pleasure in its own right and is only prepared to tolerate it because there is so far no substitute for it as a means of propagating the human race.” Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

Communization is not a revolutionary position. It is not a form of society we build after the revolution. It is not a tactic, a strategic perspective, an organization, or a plan. Communization describes a set of measures that we must take in the course of the class struggle if there is to be a revolution at all. Communization abolishes the capitalist mode of production, including wage-labor, exchange, the value form, the state, the division of labor and private property. That the revolution must take this form is a necessary feature of class struggle today. Our cycle of struggles can have no other horizon, since the unfolding contradictions of capitalism annihilated the conditions which other forms of revolution required. It is no longer possible to imagine a situation in which social divisions are dissolved after the revolution.[1]

Since the revolution as communization must abolish all divisions within social life, it must also abolish gender relations – not because gender is inconvenient or objectionable, but because it is part of the totality of relations that daily reproduce the capitalist mode of production. Gender, too, is constitutive of capital’s central contradiction, and so gender must be torn asunder in the process of the revolution. We cannot wait until after the revolution for the gender question to be solved. Its relevance to our existence will not be transformed slowly – whether through planned obsolescence or playful deconstruction, whether as the equality of gender identities or their proliferation into a multitude of differences. On the contrary, in order to be revolution at all, communization must destroy gender in its very course, inaugurating relations between individuals defined in their singularity.

The fact that revolution takes the form of communization is not the result of lessons learned from past defeats, nor even from the miserable failure of past movements to solve the gender question. Whether or not we can discern, after the fact, a winning strategy for the movements of the past says nothing about the present. For capital no longer organizes a unity among proletarians on the basis of their common condition as wage-laborers. The capital-labor relation no longer allows workers to affirm their identity as workers and to build on that basis workers’ organizations capable of assuming power within the state. Movements that elevated workers to the status of a revolutionary subject were still ‘communist’, but communist in a mode that cannot be ours today. The revolution as communization has no revolutionary subject, no affirmable identity – not the Worker, the Multitude, or the Precariat. The real basis of any such revolutionary identity has melted away.

Of course, workers still exist as a class. Wage-labor has become a universal condition of life as never before. However, the proletariat is diffuse and fractured. Its relation to capital is precarious. The structural oversupply of labor is enormous. A surplus population of over one-billion people – eager to find a place in the global commodity chains from which they have been excluded – makes it impossible to form mass organizations capable of controlling the supply of labor, except among the most privileged strata of workers.[2] Capital now exacerbates, fragments and more than ever relies on the divisions between workers. Once the proud bearers of a universally relevant revolutionary essence, the Working Class, in its autonomy as a class within capitalism, can no longer build its power as a class against capital. Today, the revolution must emerge from the disunity of the proletariat, as the only process capable of overcoming that disunity. If revolutionary action does not immediately abolish all divisions between proletarians, then it is not revolutionary; it is not communization.

In the present moment, the very inability of workers to unite on the basis of a workers’ identity thus forms the fundamental limit of struggle. But that limit is at once the dynamic potential of this cycle of struggles, bearing within itself the abolition of gender relations and all other fixed distinctions. It is no historical accident that the end of the former cycle of struggles coincided with a revolt against the primacy of the Worker – a revolt in which feminism played a major role. To re-imagine a workers’ movement that would not demote women, blacks, and homosexuals to a subordinate position is to think a workers’ movement that lacks precisely the unifying/excluding trait that once allowed it to move at all. With the benefit of hindsight, it is increasingly clear that if the working class (as a class of all those without direct access to means of production) was destined to become the majority of society, the workers’ movement was unlikely to organize a clear majority from it. The revolution as communization does not solve this problem, but it takes it onto a new terrain. As surveyors of this new landscape, we must assess the present state of the practical movement toward the end of gender relations. We must also expand discussion of this essential communizing measure.

Until recently, the theory of communization has been the product of a small number of groups organized around the publication of a handful of yearly journals. If few of those groups have taken up the task of theorizing gender, it is because most have been wholly uninterested in examining the real basis of the divisions that mark the existence of the working class. On the contrary, they have busied themselves with trying to discover a revolutionary secret decoder-ring, with which they might be able to decipher the merits and shortcomings of past struggles. Thus, most partisans of communization have thought the revolution as an immediate overcoming of all separations, but they arrived at this conclusion through an analysis of what communization would have to be in order to succeed where past movements failed, rather than from a focus on the historical specificity of the present[3].

For this reason, the tendency organized around Théorie Communiste (TC) is unique, and we largely follow them in our exposition. For TC, the revolution as communization only emerges as a practical possibility when these struggles begin to ‘swerve’ (faire l’écart) as the very act of struggling increasingly forces the proletariat to call into question and act against its own reproduction as a class. ‘Gaps’ (l’écarts) thereby open up in the struggle, and the multiplication of these gaps is itself the practical possibility of communism in our time. Workers burn down or blow up their factories, demanding severance pay instead of fighting to maintain their jobs. Students occupy universities, but against rather than in the name of the demands for which they are supposedly fighting. Women break with movements in which they already form a majority, since those movements cannot but fail to represent them. And everywhere, the unemployed, the youth, and the undocumented join and overwhelm the struggles of a privileged minority of workers, making the limited nature of the latter’s demands at once obvious and impossible to sustain.

In the face of these proliferating gaps in the struggle,


a fraction of the proletariat, in going beyond the demands-based character of its struggle, will take communizing measures and will thus initiate the unification of the proletariat which will be the same process as the unification of humanity, i.e. its creation as the ensemble of social relations that individuals establish between themselves in their singularity[4].

For TC, the divisions within the proletariat are therefore not only that which must be overcome in the course of the revolution, but also the very source of that overcoming. Perhaps that is why TC, alone among theorists of communization, have devoted themselves to an examination of the gender distinction, as it is perhaps the most fundamental divisions within the proletariat. TC’s work on gender is relatively new, especially for a group which has spent the last thirty years refining and restating a few key ideas over and over again. Their main text on gender, written in 2008, was finally published in 2010 (with two additional appendices) in issue 23 of their journal as Distinction de Genres, Programmatisme et Communisation. TC are known for their esoteric formulations. How ever, with some effort, most of their ideas can be reconstructed in a clear fashion. Since their work on gender is provisional, we refrain from lengthy quotations. TC claim that communization involves the abolition of gender as much as the abolition of capitalist social relations. For the divisions which maintain capitalism maintain the gender division and the gender division preserves all other divisions. Still, as much as TC take steps towards developing a rigorously historical materialist theory of the production of gender, they end up doing little more than suture gender to an already existing theory of the capitalist mode of production (to no small extent, this is because they rely largely on the work on one important French feminist, Christine Delphy[5]).

For our context here, TC have a particularly fascinating theory of communization insofar as it is also a periodization of the history of class struggle – which itself corresponds to a periodization of the history of the capital-labor relation. This provides TC with a uniquely historical vantage on the present prospects for communism. Crucially, TC focus on the reproduction of the capital-labor relation, rather than on the production of value. This change of focus allows them to bring within their purview the set of relations that actually construct capitalist social life – beyond the walls of the factory or office. And the gender relation has always extended beyond the sphere of value production alone.

I. The Construction of the Category ‘Woman’

Woman is a social construction. The very category of woman is organized within and through a set of social relations, from which the splitting of humanity into two, woman and man – and not only female and male – is inseparable. In this way, sexual difference is given a particular social relevance that it would not otherwise possess[6]. Sexual difference is given this fixed significance within class societies, when the category of woman comes to be defined by the function that most (but not all) human females perform, for a period of their lives, in the sexual reproduction of the species. Class society thus gives a social purpose to bodies: because some women ‘have’ babies, all bodies that could conceivably ‘produce’ babies are subject to social regulation. Women become the slaves of the biological contingencies of their birth. Over the long history of class society, women were born into a world organized only for men – the primary ‘actors’ in society, and in particular the only people capable of owning property. Women thereby became the property of society as a whole.

Because women are by definition not men, they are excluded from ‘public’ social life. For TC, this circumscription of the women’s realm means that not only are their bodies appropriated by men, but also the totality of their activity. Their activity, as much as their very being, is by definition ‘private’. In this way, women’s activity takes on the character of domestic labor. This labor is defined not as work done in the home, but as women’s work. If a woman sells cloth in the market, she is a weaver, but if she makes cloth in the home, she is only a wife. A woman’s activity is thus considered merely as her activity, without any of the concrete determinations it would be given if it were performed by some other, more dignified social entity. The gender distinction man/woman thereby takes on additional significance as public/private and social/domestic.

Is the unpaid labor of women for men, including perhaps their ‘production’ of children, therefore a class relation, or even a mode of production (as Delphy calls it, the domestic mode of production)? TC defines class society as a relationship between surplus producers and surplus extractors. The social division between these groups is constitutive of the relations of production, which organize the productive forces for the purpose of producing and extracting surplus. Crucially, these relations must have as their product the reproduction of the class relation itself. However, for TC – and we follow them on this point – each mode of production is already a totality, and in fact the social relevance of women’s role in sexual reproduction changes with the mode of production. That does not mean that relations between men and women are derivative of the relations between the classes. It means rather that the relations between men and women form an essential element of the class relation and cannot be thought as a separate ‘system’, which then relates to the class-based system.

Of course, this discussion remains abstract. The question now becomes, how do we unite our story about women with our story about the succession of modes of production? For TC, women are the primary productive force within all class societies, since the growth of the population forms an essential support of the reproduction of the class relation. The augmentation of the population as the primary productive force remains, throughout the history of class society, the burden of its women. In this way, the heterosexual matrix is founded on a specific set of material social relations.

However, we should remind ourselves that the special burden of childbirth predates the advent of class society. Historically, each woman had to give birth, on average, to six children – just in order to ensure that two of those six survived to reproduce the coming generations. The chance that a woman would die in childbirth, in the course of her life, was nearly one in ten[7]. Perhaps the insight of TC is that the advent of class society – which saw a massive increase in the size of the human population – hardened the social relevance of these facts. But even before the advent of class society, there was never any ‘natural’ regime of human sexual reproduction. Age at marriage, length of breastfeeding, number of children born, social acceptability of infanticide – all have varied across human social formations[8]. Their variation marks a unique adaptability of the human species.

But we are concerned less with the long history of the human species than with the history of the capitalist mode of production. Wage-labor is fundamentally different from both ancient slavery and feudal vassalage. In slavery, surplus producers have no ‘relation’ to the means of production. For the slaves are themselves part of the means of production. The reproduction or upkeep of slaves is the direct responsibility of the slave owner himself. For both men and women slaves, the distinction between public and private thus dissolves, since slaves exist entirely within the private realm. Nor is there any question, for the slaves, of property inheritance or relations with the state, such as taxation. Interestingly, there is some evidence that patriarchy was, perhaps for that very reason, rather weak among slave families in the American South[9]. In vassalage, by contrast, the surplus producers have direct access to the means of production. Surplus is extracted by force. The peasant man stands in relation to this outside force as the public representative of the peasant household. Property passes through his line. Women and children peasants are confined to the private realm of the village, which is itself a site of both production and reproduction. The peasant family does not need to leave its private sphere in order to produce what it needs, but rather only to give up a part of its product to the lords. For this reason, peasant families remain relatively independent of markets.

In capitalism, the lives of the surplus producers are constitutively split between the public production of a surplus and the private reproduction of the producers themselves. The workers, unlike the slaves, are their ‘own property’: they continue to exist only if they take care of their own upkeep. If wages are too low, or if their services are no longer needed, workers are ‘free’ to survive by other means (as long as those means are legal). The reproduction of the workers is thus emphatically not the responsibility of the capitalist. However, unlike the vassals, the workers can take care of their own upkeep only if they return to the labor market, again and again, to find work. Here is the essence of the capital-labor relation. What the workers earn for socially performed production in the public realm, they must spend in order to reproduce themselves domestically in their own private sphere. The binaries of public/private and social/domestic are embodied in the wage-relation itself. Indeed, these binaries will only collapse with the end of capitalism.

For if the capitalists were directly responsible for workers’ survival – and thus if their reproduction were removed from the private sphere – then the workers would no longer be compelled to sell their labor-power. The existence of a separate, domestic sphere of reproduction (where little production takes place unmediated by commodities purchased on the market) is constitutive of capitalist social relations as such. Social activity separates out from domestic activity as the market becomes the mediating mechanism of concrete social labor performed outside of the home. Production for exchange, which was formerly performed inside the home, increasingly leaves the home to be performed elsewhere. At this point the public/ private distinction takes on a spatial dimension. The home becomes the sphere of private activity – that is, women’s domestic labor and men’s ‘free time’ – while the factory takes charge of the public, socially productive character of men’s work.

Of course, women have also always been wage laborers, alongside men, for as long as capitalism has existed. For TC, the gendered nature of women’s domestic work determines that their work, even when performed outside of the home, remains merely women’s work. It remains, that is to say, wage labor of a particular sort, namely unproductive or else low value-added labor. Women tend to work in part-time, low-wage jobs, particularly in services (though of course today, there are at least some women in all sectors of the economy, including among the highest paid professionals). Women often perform domestic services in other people’s homes, or else in their offices and airplanes. When women work in factories, they are segregated into labor-intensive jobs requiring delicate hand-work, particularly in textiles, apparel and electronics assembly. Likewise, work done in the home remains women’s work, even if men perform it – which, largely, they do not.

In this sense, once gender becomes embodied in the wage-relation as a binary public/private relation, TC cease to theorize its ground in the role that women play in sexual reproduction. The fact that women’s work is of a particular character outside the home is merely true by analogy to the character of the work they perform in the home. It bears no relation to the material ground of women’s role in sexual reproduction, and in that sense, it is more or less ideological. By the same token, TC increasingly define the work that women do in the home by its character as the daily reproductive labor performed necessarily outside of the sphere of production – and not by relation to the role that women play in childbirth, as the ‘principal force of production’. If, within the capitalist mode of production, women are and have always been both wage-laborers and domestic laborers, why do they remain almost entirely female? As TC begin to discuss capitalism, they phase out their focus on sexual reproduction, which disappears under a materially unfounded conception of domestic labor (though their references to biology return later, as we will see).

This oversight is a serious mistake. The sexual segregation of work in the capitalist mode of production is directly related to the temporality of a woman’s life: as the bearer of children, the main source of their nourish ment at young ages (breastfeeding), and their primary caretakers through puberty. Over the long history of capitalism, women’s participation in the labor market has followed a distinct ‘M-shaped’ curve[10]. Participation rises rapidly as women enter adulthood, then drops as women enter their late 20s and early 30s. Participation slowly rises again as women enter their late 40s before dropping off at retirement ages. The reasons for this pattern are well known. Young women look for full-time work, but with the expectation that they will either stop working or work part-time when they have children. When women enter childbearing years, their participation in the labor force declines. Women who continue to work while their children are young are among the poorer proletarians and are super-exploited: unmarried mothers, widows and divorcées, or women whose husbands’ incomes are low or unreliable. As children get older, more and more women return to the labor market (or move to full-time work), but at a distinct disadvantage in terms of skills and length of employment, at least as compared to the men with whom they compete for jobs[11].

For all these reasons, capitalist economies have always had a special ‘place’ for women workers, as workers either not expected to remain on the job for very long or else as older, late entrants or re-entrants into the labor force. Beyond that, women form an important component of what Marx calls the ‘latent’ reserve army of labor, expected to enter and leaving the workforce according to the cyclical needs of the capitalist enterprises. The existence of a distinctive place for women in the labor force then reinforces a society-wide commitment to and ideology about women’s natural place, both in the home and at work. Even when both men and women work, men typically (at least until recently) earn higher wages and work longer hours outside the home. There thus remains a strong pressure on women, insofar as they are materially dependent on their husbands, to accept their subordination: to not ‘push too hard’[12] on questions of the sexual division of labor within the home. Historically, this pressure was compounded by the fact that women were, until after World War II, de facto if not de jure excluded from many forms of property ownership, making them reliant on men as mediators of their relation to capital. Therefore, women did not possess the juridical freedoms that male proletarians won for themselves – and not for their women. Women were not truly ‘free’ labor in relation to the market and the state, as were their male counterparts.198

II. The Destruction of the Category ‘Woman’ Though

TC fail to explain the ground of the construction of women in capitalism, they do have a provocative theory of how women’s situation within capitalism changes according to the unfolding contradictions of that mode of production. ‘Capitalism has a problem with women’ because, in the present period, the capital-labor relation cannot accommodate the continued growth of the labor force. As we have already noted, capital increasingly faces a large and growing surplus population, structurally excessive to its demands for labor. The appearance of this surplus population has coincided with a transformation in the way that capitalist states, the workers’ movement, and also feminists have viewed women as the ‘principal productive force’. In an earlier moment birth-rates declined precipitously in Europe and the former European settler-colonies. The response was ‘pro-natalism’. Civilization supposedly faced imminent degeneration, since women were no longer fulfilling their duty to the nation; they had to be encouraged back into it. By the 1920s, even feminists became increasingly pro-natalist, turning maternalism into an explanation for women’s ‘equal but different’ dignity as compared to men. By the 1970s, however – as the population of poor countries exploded while the capitalist economy entered into a protracted crisis – maternalism was largely dead. The world was overpopulated with respect to the demand for labor. Women were no longer needed in their role as women. The ‘special dignity’ of their subordinate role was no longer dignified at all.

However, that is only half the story. The other half is to be found in the history of the demographic transition itself, which TC fail to consider. In the course of its early development, capitalism increased work ers’ consumption and thereby improved their health, reducing infant mortality. Falling infant mortality in turn reduced the number of children that each woman had to have in order to reproduce the species. At first, this transformation appeared as an increase in the number of surviving children per woman and a rapid growth of the population. Thus, the spread of capitalist social relations was everywhere associated with an increase in women’s reproductive burden. However with time, and now in almost every region of the world, there has been a subsequent reduction, both in the number of children each woman has and in the number of children who subsequently survive infancy and early childhood. Simultaneously, as both men and women live longer, less of women’s lifetimes are spent either having or caring for young children. The importance of these facts cannot be overestimated. They explain why, in our period, the straight-jacket of the heterosexual matrix has had its buckles slightly loosened, for men as well as women (and even, to a small extent, for those who fit neither the categories of gender distinction, nor those of sexual difference)[13].

As with everything else in capitalism, the ‘freedom’ that women have won (or are winning) from their reproductive fate has not been replaced with free-time, but with other forms of work. Women’s supposed entrance into the labor force was always actually an increase in the time and duration of women’s already existing participation in wage-work. But now, since women are everywhere spending less time in childbirth and child-rearing, there has been a reduction in the M-shaped nature of their participation in labor-markets. Women’s situation is thus increasingly split between, on the one hand, the diminishing but still heavy burden of childbearing and domestic work, and on the other hand, the increasingly primary role in their lives of wage-work – within which they remain, however, disadvantaged. As all women know, this situation expresses itself as a forced choice between the promise a working life supposedly equal to men and the pressure, as well as the desire, to have children. That some women choose not to have children at all – and thus to solve this dilemma for themselves, however inadequately – is the only possible explanation of the fall in the birth rate below what is predicted by demographic transition theory. Fertility is now as low as 1.2 children per woman in Italy and Japan; almost everywhere else in the West it has fallen below 2. In the world as a whole, fertility has fallen from 6 children per woman in 1950 to around 2.5 today.

In this situation, it becomes increasingly clear that women have a problem with markets, since markets are incompatible with women. This incompatibility comes down to two facts about the capitalist mode of production. First, capital cannot, if it is to remain capital, take direct responsibility for the reproduction of the working class. It is because workers are responsible for their own upkeep that they are forced to return, again and again, to the labor market. At the same time, labor markets, if they are to remain markets, must be ‘sex-blind’[14]. Markets have to evaluate the competition between workers without regard to any non-market characteristics of the workers themselves. These non-market characteristics include the fact that half of all of humanity is sexed female. For some employers, sexual difference cannot but appear as an additional cost. Women workers are able to bear children and thus cannot be relied on not to have children. For other employers, sexual difference appears as a benefit for precisely the same reason: women provide flexible, cheap labor. Women are thus relegated by capitalist relations – precisely because markets are sex-blind – to women’s wage-work.

This incompatibility of women and markets has plagued the women’s movement. Feminism historically accepted the gendered nature of social life, since it was only through gender that women could affirm their identity as women in order to organize on that basis. This affirmation became a problem for the movement historically, since it is impossible to fully reconcile gender – the very existence of women and men – with the simultaneous existence of the working class and capital[15]. As a result, the women’s movement has swung back and forth between two positions[16]. On the one hand, women fought for equality on the basis of their fundamental same ness with respect to men. But whatever the similarity of their aptitudes, women and men are not and never will be the same for capital. On the other hand, women have fought for equality on the basis of their ‘difference but equal dignity’ to men. But that difference, here made explicit as motherhood, is precisely the reason for women’s subordinate role.

The workers’ movement promised to reconcile women and workers beyond, or at least behind the back of, the market. After all, the founding texts of German Social Democracy, in addition to Marx’s Capital, were Engels’ Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, and Bebel’s Woman and Socialism. Through struggle, the workers’ movement promised to bring women out of the home and into the workforce, where they would finally become the true equals of men. In order to achieve this real equality, the workers movement would socialize women’s reproductive work ‘after the revolution’. Both housework and childcare would be performed collectively by men and women together. As it became clear to the most extreme elements of the Radical Feminist movement in the 1970s, these measures would never suffice to actually ensure ‘real equality’ between men and women workers. The only possibility of achieving an equality of workers, at the intersecting limit of both gender and labor, would be if babies were born in test-tubes, finally having nothing to do with women at all[17].

In fact, the workers’ movement betrayed its women as soon as it had the chance. Whenever they came close to power, male workers were fully willing to demonstrate their capacity to manage the economy by showing that they, too, knew how to keep women in their place. In the British Communist Party, freeing husbands from domestic work was the main task of women’s ‘party work’[18]. How could it have been otherwise? Within a world defined by work – or more precisely, by productive labor (a category of capitalism) – women would always be less than men. The attempt to ‘raise’ women to the equals of men was always a matter of adjusting a ‘universally’ relevant movement of workers to fit the ‘particular’ needs of its women. The attempt to do so, within the bounds of capitalism, amounted to a minimal socialization of childcare, as well as the institution of a minimal set of laws protecting women from their disadvantages in markets (that is to say, maternity leave, etc). Workers’ movements could have gone further along this road. They could have made women more of a priority than they did. But the fact is that they did not. And now, it’s over.

The death of the workers’ movement has been considered in other texts[19]. Its death marks also the passage from one historical form of revolution to another. Today, the presence of women within the class struggle can only function as a rift (l’ecart), a deviation in the class conflict that destabilizes its terms. That struggle cannot be their struggle, even if, in any given case, they form the majority of the participants. For as long as proletarians continue to act as a class, the women among them cannot but lose. In the course of struggle, women will, therefore, come into conflict with men. They will be criticized for derailing the movement, for diverting it from its primary goals. But the ‘goal’ of the struggle lies elsewhere. It is only from within this (and other) conflicts that the proletariat will come to see its class belonging as an external constraint, an impasse which it will have to overcome in order to be anything at all beyond its relation to capital. That overcoming is only the revolution as communization, which destroys gender and all the other divisions that come between us.

5. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

Deleted reason: i can see the light, but not taking me there

Author: Aaron Swartz

Topics: civil disobedience, copyright, hacktivism

Date: July 2008, Eremo, Italy

Date Published on T@L: 2017-10-21T18:49:10

Source: Retrieved on 2017-10-21 from

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

6. Economic Battle

Deleted reason: accidentally published, pending review

Author: Andrew Klemenčič

Topics: praxis

Date: October 1906

Source: Prolatarec, Vol. 1 No. 1

Notes: translated by CarniolanLeshy

“What are the reasons?”, asks fellow citizen J. Z-k in issue 8 of Proletarec [“Proletarian” in Slovenian, name of this newspaper], looking at the Austrian proletariat’s battle with the Austrian bureaucracy.

Comrade Z-k says in his article, that the Austrian proletariat is getting ready for a general strike for the right to vote, and asks “why only for the right to vote?”

My answer is short and goes as follows: It is only for the right to vote, because the socialist politicians and leaders of socialist parties are hungry for the state’s mercy and jobs, uncaring for the suffering and starvation of those without education and no job.

Anyone who still remembers the demonstrations for socialism in Ljubljana and Trieste in 1879 and the following four or five years, can tell you today that our agitation was purely on economic-revolutionary grounds, influenced by [Die] Zukunft [German social-democratic newspaper, 1892–1923] from Vienna and Freiheit [German anarchist newspaper, founded by Johann Most, 1879–1910] from London and various fliers from Geneva, printed in the Italian language.

Ivan Brozovič, a tailor in Ljubljana, was an especially dedicated proponent of workers’ organization under the principle that workers claim what they deem right by way of strikes, meaning, every worker has the right to what they produce or grow. There is power in unity.

The battle on economic grounds is reliable—positive; and because such a battle is simple, everyone knows what their rights are and what to demand from the masters.

Even back in those days, there was already talk of a general strike and of a social revolution, if the masters refuse to give in to our demands.

We did not want to hear anything about German social democracy, as the tendencies of Bebel, Liebknecht, Kautsky, Adler, and others have been solely political and metaphysical, and therefore negative and focused on despotism and quarrel—an excess of empty words.

A worker knows what potatoes, bread, housing, clothes, meat, wine, etc. are, that is all positive, so let’s organize and seize the abundance of the world, created through our labor and diligence. All that is clear.

But with politics and religion, it is different. German social democrats have introduced a minimum-maximum program, which it is both, i.e. nothing, as German workers are still in as miserable a position as they were 35 years ago, when their social democrats only had a couple thousand votes, and now they have 3 million. Why is this? Because the person who goes to vote for another, forsakes his own right and hands it to whoever they voted for. And the person elected into political power cannot represent the interests of all those who voted for them. Regardless of how fair, honest, and devoted to the power of the people they are, they will, because of this inability, start to represent only that which pays off. This, in turn, creates speculative tendencies in the politician, which only fortify with time and eventually overcome all ideals regarding the good of the people. What remains is only the professional title of the people’s representative, whose only interest becomes staying in power. All this is called bargaining by vote.

In the years 1885–1886, the Austrian government had started to suppress us and our best people had to flee the land, or else be imprisoned, because they were socialists. That is what happened to Mauro, Slejko, Petrič, as well as me, and our Delavski list [Slovenian newspaper], which we were releasing in Trieste from 1889 to 1890, was suppressed.

And so the things “developed” in a different way and now we have Slovenian socialist politicians, profesionale par excelence, who walk in “German boots” and they have organized a “party” in the last years of the previous century. But I hope that today, there’s an even greater number of experienced people with integrity within the party, who are asking themselves: why not hold a general strike to take back all that the exploiters have daily been stealing from us for millennia in the name of law?

A couple of years ago, weavers and miners almost won with a general strike, but the socialist leaders and politicians swayed the workers to return, without any gain and on old conditions, to their yoke of servitude, back into the hands of the capitalists.

In French workers’ circles, it is very different in this regard. In their syndicates, worker cooperatives and unions, the state and voting are their least concern. For the first of May, the [French] workers staged a great agitation for an 8-hour workday and other changes for the benefit of the proletarians. The result of the agitation was immediate, namely, in places where the workers were brave and well organized, they won, but in places where socialist politics blooms, such as in northern France, the workers were deceived by their own city, regional, and national representatives. And this ugly, dirty backstabbery is being attempted to be implemented in the workers’ congress of Amiens taking place from 14th to 18th of October this year [1906, congress of the CGT in Amiens, a major French trade union, dominated by anarcho-syndicalists, where it was at that point overwhelmingly reaffirmed to not associate with any political parties]. French politicians want to imitate the German ones, but I hope they fail in their endeavors, trying to implement changes and pass laws, which mean nothing to the proletarian and don’t really change anything.

Because of all that, I recommend to all my comrades to take an interest in economic-industrial organizations, which do represent our interests and also successfully defend them.

“Industrial Workers of the World” (“Svetovna zveza industrijskih delavcev” [Slovenian translation of the name]) is a proletarian organization, which was founded last June and which represents the whole ideal of the first Slovene socialists [i.e. like those the author previously mentioned were exiled from Slovenian lands by the Austro-Hungarian authorities for being socialists]. Of course, we must not forget that every organization and association is only what we make of it, so we must agitate and motivate our friends to, each by their own means, spread basic [revolutionary] economic teachings and our rights and to join the IWW or Western Federation of Miners, which are one and the same. Let’s get to work; we may be representing a small nation [Slovenes], but let’s do our best to spread our power and connections, so that we’ll get the recognition of the broader proletariat in our fight for universal well-being of everyone.

A. Klemenčič

7. Child Molestation vs. Child Love

Deleted reason: deleted for now pending further conversation

Subtitle: Critically Annotated by Black Oak Clique

Author: Feral Faun

Authors: Black Oak Clique, Feral Faun, Wolfi Landstreicher, Apio Ludd

Topics: sex, criticism, egoism, critique

Date: 2019, 1987

Date Published on T@L: 2019-08-26


Introduction: A Word of Warning

Here Be Dragons

The material contained in this text is gut-wrenching and disturbing. What follows is a critically annotated edition of Apio Ludd / Feral Faun / Wolfi Landstreicher’s Child Molestation vs. Child Love, from his (otherwise celebrated) anthology, Rants, Essays and Polemics. It is a defense of the sexual abuse of children and, ironically, a call to “fight the real child molesters” — Landstreicher’s term for parents, schools, and churches. In some parts of the work, it is quite graphic and the reader should tread lightly. Those who have suffered child sexual abuse in the past may want to stop here. It is presented with criticism. It is not in the interest of Heresy Distro to distribute molestation apologia by itself. Our choice of publishing this work is in the interest of knowledge — not of the arguments of self-styled “child lovers,” but rather knowledge about Wolfi Landstreicher’s views on “child love’’ so that one can act accordingly in their interactions with him.


Our intent is not to moralize. Our motives for publishing Child Molestation is love — real, egoistic love for children. We do not believe it is our “duty” to protect children nor are we guided by any outside, abstract, spectral “morals” to do so. It is rather our lived, experienced, and felt camaraderie with children; with our desire to return to the pre-civilized and Wild existence that is childhood. Rarely is there a moment with children when they are not mesmerized by the natural world — insects, spiders, the grass, squirrels, rocks, rain, thunder. This is not merely naïve curiosity. Children exist in a state before the bifurcation into man and animal. Truly, the trope of the “feral child” is not a child who has lost their humanity. Rather, they never developed it.

Childhood “sexuality”

One cannot deny that children possess a sort of sexuality, or, more precisely, what adults term sexuality. Childhood is a stage of exploration, and it is to be expected that children will partake in bodily exploration as well — individual and collective.

However, it must be made abundantly clear that a child’s conception of sexuality is much different than an adult’s. Children do not possess a concept of, and thus cannot grant, consent. Thus, an adult (who possesses a grasp on consent) who engages a child sexually will be enacting a sort of sexualized authority over them. Further, children are scarcely aware of the power dynamics that mark adult sexuality, and therefore cannot contend with and rectify them, as adults can. They are made into objects of pleasure, not, as Landstreicher contends, equal partners in a mutually-beneficial erotic relationship.

When one’s reading of Child Molestation vs. Child Love is informed by this understanding, the true content of the piece is laid bare: a quasi-egoist appropriation of anarchist rhetoric to justify (and perhaps hide) a cruel and authoritarian desire to control and fetishize the bodies of children.

Child Molestation vs. Child Love (Main text from 1987)

A child is scolded, restricted, forced to conform to schedules and social norms, limited, bribed with rewards and threatened with punishments. This is called love. A child is kissed, caressed, played with, gently fondled and given erotic pleasure. This is called molestation. Something is obviously twisted here. (1)

One of the main dichotomies of this society is the child/adult dichotomy. It has no basis in any real needs or natural ways. It is a totally arbitrary conception which only serves to reinforce authority. (2)

Certainly, newborn infants need to be fed and watched over until they can begin to move around their environment with some ease, steadiness, and self-assurance. And thereafter, it is certainly a kindness to inform them of anything they may need to know to avoid accidents and relate well to their environment. But the structuring and regimentation a child undergoes in our society has nothing to do with natural needs or kindness. It is the slow destruction of the child’s freedom under authority. (3)

From the moment an infant is bone s/he is in the firm hand of authority. S/he is almost immediately forced to feed on a schedule. Early on, s/he begins to see that the “love” of most adults is something that must be bought by conformity and obedience. Sensuality begins to be repressed by the scheduling of feeding and the use of diapers and other clothing even when they’re uncomfortable. Toilet training continues the process. And the constant threat of punishment instills the fear necessary to keep the process of sensual repression going strong. All of this is the dirty work of parents. What defines a “good” parent is their ability to instill this repression appearing to be the monsters they are. For once this repression is well begun, the child can be easily molded into what this society wants. School completes the process begun by the parent. It forces the child to regiment most of her/his daylight hours. Sensual activity is straight-jacketed during this time. After school, there is homework which the parents make sure the child does. This process usually continues well past puberty. All of these years of repression and forced acquiescence to authority make the child into a grown-up (more accurately, a groan-up), which, in this society, means a conforming, obedient, and usually anxiety-ridden slave.

It is the nature of this education process which makes society define the child-lover as a devil. For to the child-lover, a child is not a lump of clay to be molded to the will of authority. S/he is a god, the manifestation of Eros. The child-lover encourages the free expression of the child’s sensuality and so undermines the entire education process. And the child, who has not yet been as repressed as her/his adult lover, helps to break down the repression within the adult. How could a society which requires repressed, conforming, obedient groan-ups possible tolerate child love? (4)

It is clear who the true child molesters are. The parents and schools rape the minds of children, forcing guilt and fear, conformity and obedience to authority upon them, repressing their sensuality and imagination, their wild erotic ecstasy. (5) But children are still less repressed than most adults. Their divinity still shines through with an especially clear beauty. For they are not mere clay to be molded. They are wild, dancing gods. To adventure erotically with children is liberating both for the children and for we “adults” who are really just repressed children. It is a major blow against authority and an expression of paradise. For we all are gods, and all shared pleasure is a beautiful expression of our divinity. So let us fight the real child molesters, the family, the school, the church, and all authority, and share erotic pleasure as freely as we can with children. Then we may again regain our own repressed childhood and become the gods we truly are in beauty and in ecstasy. (6)

Critical Annotations by Black Oak Clique

1. As outlined in the previous section, child sexual abuse is not simply kissing, caressing, and playing with a child. This is a gross and intentional mischaracterization of child molestation. Further, one can be opposed both to the imposition of authoritarian social norms and the sexualization of children.

2. It is true in some sense that the child-adult dialectic serves to reinforce unequal power dynamics. We dispute, however, that the dichotomy has no basis in real needs or natural ways. Perhaps the only meaningful distinction between children and adults is the development of a concept of consent. However, Landstreicher himself even goes further than this — he contradicts himself in the very next paragraph. One must wonder what his intent here in “disrupting” this dichotomy is...

3. Here is the contradiction — newborn infants cannot feed or protect themselves sufficiently and are totally reliant on their parents. Again, it is true in some sense that the structuring of a child’s life is more for the good of capital-S Society than for the child themself. But to state that the child-adult dialectic is completely or wholly a construction of authority is fallacy. What is needed is not the complete or total destruction of the parent-child opposition. Rather, it is a radical reconstruction (or perhaps even a rediscovery) of the lived relationship of family. Unlike the empty, cold, mediated relationships we experience under industrial capitalism, the bonds of family, while certainly not wholly good in any sense, are fiery, hot, and emotionally potent. What is needed is not a destruction of the family — but liberation of it! Liberation from the chains of Morality and Obligation, and a reformation of the family as a real, lived experience.

4. In fact, the exact opposite is true. A child is exactly that to the “child lover” — an object to be molded according to authority. Landstreicher’s description of child molestation conveniently makes the truth of it opaque. Landstreicher’s child lover is more properly a child groomer, who, through the performance of affection and play, makes a child open to sexual acts they do not, and perhaps cannot, understand. They are not being “encouraged’’ to express their “sensuality.’’ Their sensuality is being produced, they are turned into a machine for the production of sexual pleasure.

5. How convenient that the authorities Landstreicher charges with “true’’ child molestation are the ones who are most directly engaged in the protection of children from sexual predators!

6. Finally, Landstreicher closes with the clearest objectification of children in this “rant.’’ For Landstreicher, in the end, the child is a tool for the production of an imaginary, repressed childhood. For Landstreicher, “child love’’ — molestation — is a ritual with which he can become feral and return to an Adamic state of “beauty and ecstasy.” It is not the relationship he intends to portray.

8. A Tyranny Of Editors

Deleted reason: deleted, pending further review

Subtitle: How Wikipedia Became Another System of Oppression

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: censorship, transphobia

Date: September 8th, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-09-09T02:09:35


Techbros – cishet white men in the tech sector, usually upholding some kind of right-wing Libertarian views — made a lot of big promises they couldn’t keep, one of which is free and open education. None illustrates that failure as well as Wikipedia, the so-called free encyclopedia. While it operates as a non-profit unaffiliated with any State or corporation, its user base created a strong bias in favor of right-wing rhetoric and viewpoints, anywhere from mildly Conservative to downright Fascist. Like the Moon of Anarres from the novel The Dispossessed, it’s a great case study in how implicit hierarchy can form in free spaces, and how that insidious hierarchy can sometimes be more dangerous than explicit ones.

Now, one might argue that since Wikipedia doesn’t possess any authority, it doesn’t really matter if it’s run by a buncha techbros putting on the Reich, but the truth is that it does matter: authority is derived when the power of the many is controlled by an undeserving few, so when people give up doing their own research and rely on Wikipedia as a knowledge source, it gains authority in deciding what people believe to be objective facts. This is the same as when news outlets broadcast State or corporate propaganda: if enough people buy into the brainwashing, than the media has authority over them.

In that sense, Wikipedia is little more than a new paint applied to old media, in more ways than one. It demands “neutral points of view”, but will only consider sources provided by certain agencies and institutions, the vast majority of which are controlled by a Conservative establishment; their neutrality is really just a dogwhistle used to hide their right-wing bias. Their “notability” criteria means that any group that doesn’t yet have enough representation in mainstream media — be them political groups like Anarchists or minority groups like indigenous people – doesn’t deserve as much voice as large groups like Capitalists or cishet white men. And like all authoritarians, they never play by their own rules.

The fact that it’s decentralized and not controlled by one single individual means precious little when the vast majority of their contributors belong to the same privileged demographic and share the same Conservative bias, and the fact that they give certain people elevated privileges based on the quantity of their contribution just make it worse: it went from a tyranny of majority in a direct democracy to just plain tyranny controlled by a representative democracy, as corrupt as any current State or corporation.

Taking the issue of transphobia as an example: they deny that the Roman empress Elagabalus is a trans woman despite she explicitly asked to be called an empress and was willing to give a great reward to anyone that could perform bottom surgery for her, since none of their “neutral” and “notable” sources said as such; they wouldn’t acknowledge that author Richard K. Morgan is a transphobe even after he had repeatedly regurgitated transphobic propaganda and rhetoric, again because their deeply biased sources didn’t confirm it as such. They are quickly approaching a point where they can’t call the kettle black until one of their sources tell them so, but of course that’s not true: many pages on the site are filled with partial or misleading information, or just downright lies and slanders against marginalized people, and yet none of them bother to clean up these articles because they don’t actually care.

While these issues may seem trivial from the position of privilege, it is a very serious matter to the marginalized. Erasing a trans figure from history reinforce the Fascist propaganda that being trans is a trend and thus encourage parents to “cure” their trans children of the fad, just like the way a case of police brutality is described can greatly color someone’s perception on whether it’s a case of police brutality at all. But just like the Dadaists had accused, the self-proclaimed “Rationalists” on Wikipedia start with conclusion that conform to their right-wing bias, gather information from sources based on said bias, and then presented a Conservative propaganda as objective and neutral facts and objective truth.

Evil triumphs when good people do nothing. The Fascists don’t win when they have converted enough people into hateful bigots; they win when enough Capitalists, “Rationalists”, and other cowards sit down and negotiate with them, with the lives of marginalized people and the existence of minority groups as bargaining chips. Right now, Wikipedia is making the Devil’s bargain, by mindlessly deferring to right-wing authorities without question or challenge, they’re willing corroborators who help the Fascists spread their hateful lies, no matter how much they dress the lies up as facts.

In this way, Wikipedia had went from a source for free education to nothing but another system of oppression, endlessly regurgitating Fascist propaganda and Capitalist rhetoric from their so-called “neutral” and “notable” sources, while gladly aiding in the oppression and prosecution of minority groups and marginalized people by erasing their struggle or misrepresenting facts about them. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have a Great Firewall or censorship bureau, when the vilest and most insidious censorship readily exists in their minds: prejudice and bigotry. And like all system of corruption, one day it will have to be razed to the ground and burned into ashes. So to all the wikibros:

The day will come when our silence is more powerful than the voices you’re throttling today.

9. All Days Matter!

Deleted reason: deleted, pending further review

Subtitle: Why Celebrate Just This One Day?

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: anti-racism, black lives matter

Date: December 25, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-12-25T14:38:05


“All Lives Matter” is a common dogwhistle for Libs and assorted other scumbags who really don’t give a fuck about black lives but are also too chickenshit to admit they are racists. The bullshit nature of this slogan is obvious: it dilutes the message of Black Lives Matter — namely, a stance against the continued oppression and racist violence suffered by black people — into something so general and fundamental, it loses any and all meaning. It’s basically exactly the same as saying White Lives Matter, but the fake inclusiveness is a trademark of the Libs.

When someone says “All Lives Matter” in a discourse about Black Lives Matter, what they’re really saying is: “Why does only black lives matter? White lives matter too!” I mean, no shit, Sherlock, everyone knows that white lives matter too, but whiteys are not the ones whose lives are constantly at threat from police brutality and hate crimes. It’s like saying “People die when they are killed.” in response to someone asking “How did my friend die?”: you’re answering a question with a statement that’s always true and thus also utterly irrelevant.

And of course, countering “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” is also a cheap way to provoke an emotional response that would allow the Ra(cist Na)tionalists to “own” people and “win” the debate by claiming that black people and their allies are illogical and reverse-racists, never mind that outrage and contempt are the only logical responses to oppression and apathy, and while a black person can more than definitely be racist, black people are not the ones with the institutional power to carry out systematic violence; the whiteys are.

But if a Fascist can be reasoned with, they wouldn’t exist in the first place, so there’s no point arguing the finer points with them; instead, the next time they celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other festivities that whiteys had stolen from other cultures after they’ve genocided their people just to turn the beautiful celebration of cultures into a worship of money, tell them this: “Why does only Thanksgiving or Christmas matter? The other days of our lives should matter just as much too! All Days Matter! Why celebrate just this one day?”

10. Anarchism Before Labels

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Subtitle: The Eternal and Constant Gardeners

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: post-left, anarchism without adjectives

Date: September 13th, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-09-12T18:30:42


Anarchism had seen a resurgence in recent years, in response to the collapse of Capitalism and the ensuring rise in Fascism worldwide. The word “Anarchist” has a different meaning to each of us, as words always do; if you ask ten different Anarchists about their exact definition of Anarchism, you’ll come away with ten very different answers. As the singularly most diverse political ideology to have ever existed, it is no surprise that Anarchists would argue endlessly about ideology, with debates often escalating to bitter rivalry. Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre, two of the most famous American Anarchists, had a long-standing feud over numerous issue, from the fundamental difference between Individualism versus Collectivism, to their different outlook on the use of political violence.

This heated rivalry, however, did not prevent them from coming to the help of one another in times of great need, and they poured themselves into the defense of each and every comrade knowing that their comrades will do the same for them. This is, to us, our Anarchism: we might bicker endlessly about our visions of the future beyond the barricades, question and attack each other on ideological grounds, but when the chips come down and the shit hits the fan, we would have each other’s back. This is why de Cleyre, whose outlook on Anarchism and society had shifted over the years, proposed the idea of Anarchism Without Adjectives: both as an ideal that Anarchism can and will exist in different forms in different regions based on the local culture, and as a call for solidarity in our ongoing struggle against the establishment, for none of our vision for the future is worth anything if we lose the fight.

However, the tendency of certain Anarchists to police political labels with the same zeal and vigor as they condemn slurs worry us. There’s no singularly defining text on Anarchist thoughts, never mind Anarchist lexicon; the need for the precision use of language when it comes to political label is always the start of an implicit hierarchy and unstated rules, where nuance and context give way to linguistic dogmas and moralist authorities. We have written on the topic of Nihilism, an ideology which some considered to be post-left while others considered to be just Fascism; we have also written on the topic of Transhumanism, which some might find incompatible with Nihilism while others might believe to be nothing but a pipe dream. We do not mind; as Anarchists, we believe that the tangled mess of ideologies and even messier tangle of lingo is an indispensable part of Anarchism, and ought to be celebrated with self-conscious laughter instead of being policed with the fanatic rigor of a Commissar.

What happened to the Anarchism Without Adjectives? What happened to the comrades in arms? Since when did precision of language take priority over praxis, and political labels become more important than solidarity? Insurrection makes for strange bedfellows; in the face of a tyrannical regime with far superior power, sometimes one must make strategic alliance with people one despises. This is not a call for compromise or solidarity with authoritarians and right-wingers, but the exact opposite: this is a call to never compromise, and use your enemies for your cause until you can’t. We can use Capitalists and Libertarians to fight Fascists, knowing that we’ll eventually have to overthrow both of them too. So why can’t we do the same with each other? Why can’t we use each other, regardless of our labels and beliefs, until the fight is over and the revolution is won, before we go for each other’s throat for our own vision of the perfect world? It’s high time that we, as Anarchists, abandon our obsession with labels and embrace one simple truth: we shall fight the world until we won or die trying, and then we shall fight each other until the day comes when not even one innocent has to suffer from oppression. It’s not enough to simply walk away from Omelas in disgust and leave the one child to their fate, we must raze all systems of oppression to the ground, even systems of oppression that we made ourselves.

The revolution has to be perpetual, otherwise it would just end up creating another set of chains and a new system of oppression, different in name but not in actuality. Every now and then, the tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of tyrants and martyrs, and we Anarchists must be forever vigilant and always ready to trim the branches of hierarchy – implicit or explicit – even at the cost of our lives. This is Anarchism Before Labels (add whichever labels you prefer): the eternal and constant gardeners.

May the fire that burns within us burn everything around us.

11. Identity Poltics Are Boring As Fuck

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Subtitle: But So Are Your Leftist Politics After Twenty Fucking Years

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: anti-politics, post-left

Date: September 23, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-09-27T18:41:27


Yes, yes, we all hate Liberal identity politics, when a war criminal is cheered as a step toward equality simply for being black or female, or when marginalized people use oppression Olympics as the trump card to shut down any and all argument. But have you, in your privileged high horses and entitled echo chambers, ever thought about why these identity politics exist in the first place? It’s because your leftist politics are still boring as fuck and useless as shit to minority groups, even when it had been pointed out to you more than twenty fucking years ago. You’ve consistently failed to deliver a concrete plan of action that would actually address racial inequality, climate change, homophobia and transphobia, and really any human rights issue you claim to care about. In fact, your politics are more obtuse than ever, with people endlessly hair-splitting down ideological lines, as if splitting a square enough times would give it depth and make it a cube. And midst your endless ideological squabbles, scumbags of all stripes found ways to appropriate your rhetoric to mask their own shittiness: “Materialists” who are really just transphobes, “Anarchists” who use anti-rich sentiments to hide antisemitism, and of course “Marxists” who just want to lick the boots of tyrants in countries they will never, ever visit. The list goes on.

Though without a doubt, identity politics is very, very bad; in fact, it’s a plight upon Liberals and the left alike. After all, white leftists love to emphasize their victimhood, weaponizing ableism as a reason why they’re too oppressed to actually fight their own oppressors, talking at length about the evil of Capitalism while gladly participating in it. But you see, when you start using political labels as a reason why you get to be a jerk to black people or trans people, then you too are playing identity politics: you are inventing your own victimhood wholesale, painting yourself as one among the oppressed masses yearning to be free, appropriating the language and agony of actual minorities for political leverage. And deep down, you probably think that if all these ugly minorities would just fuck off and die, you would be able to turn enough Centrists and Liberals to your pet cause and create the Commie utopia you wanted without having to challenge and change all of your most fondly nurtured bigotries.

It’s fucking disgusting.

There’s a reason why the exploited workers and oppressed masses don’t buy into your woke lingo or read your favorite leftist literature: because they’re fucking useless. Your pretty words and lofty ideas have no bearing on the day-to-day struggle of the working people, and it doesn’t stop the constant stream of microaggression marginalize people have to suffer every day. The black people or trans people playing identity politics, do you think they do it because they fucking enjoy it? No! They do it because they see no other choice, because you — the oh so woke and progressive leftists — failed to show them a way out of their personal hell, so they decided they have no choice but to try reigning in hell. The people fighting in the streets and trying to get through the day have no time to wait for you to get your accepted leftist doctrines in working order, they need you to do something right fucking now!

You know who actually has to suffer from identity politics and oppression Olympics? Intersectional minorities such as trans people of color or homosexual people with mental illness, who suffer from a different form of bigotry from each group due to them not fitting neatly into any one group. And you know who suffer when so-called leftists throw identity politics into the wind and treat it like it’s not something you need to address? The same intersectional minorities again, whose pain and struggle are erased because their race or gender are just “bougie social construct” for the extra woke. But it’s never you, you privileged white trash fuckers who whine endlessly about idpol without ever having to be affected by it, you entitled saloon leftists who only who talk about the revolution from the comfort of your sofa without having to fight for it, you who made a mess for everyone else in the world and never ever had to take up the fucking responsibilities and actually do something to clean up after yourself.

You fucking disgust us.

Th revolution is for all, or it is nothing. Those words were written almost half a century ago, and you have learned jackshit from it. Like the Capitalists and Fascists you claim to abhor, you leftists are still more than willing to sacrifice marginalized people for the sake of your bullshit causes, you still put your abstract ideas above the daily lives and suffering of minority groups. Your organizations are just churches for the powerless, your causes venture capitals for the penniless, your revolution a religion for the godless. You want what every fucking right-winger wants: you want power without having to dirty your own hands, and so you’d use everything and sacrifice everyone except yourself. That’s why when push comes to shove, you will always ask the struggling masses to defer their insurrectionist impulses in favor of the “greater good” – which is really just whats good for you — And that’s why your bullshit revolution will always be for nothing, and we as Anarchists will have to burn your houses down too!

For us, we’re tired of being victims. We’re tired of being reminded of our victimhood. We demand actions! And thus, we put forth the same demand to both of you, you hyper-woke leftists who hate idpol and you anti-woke activists who love idpol or whatever bullshit labels you made up for yourselves: show us your beliefs with your actions, not your empty words! You care about racial inequality? Support the Black Lives Matter riots in the States. You oppose Capitalism? Bring back Occupy, but make it joyously destructive. It’s time you start following your big words up with actions, “comrades”; we’re not Anarchists by Goldman or Bakunin, we’re “Anarchists” by the ancestors who fought white Imperialists and Colonialists, by the blood spilled by our trans siblings and our comrades of color around the world, their names forgotten and their deaths unmourned, their voices drowned out by your mind-numbing bickering and incessant self-patting.

Well, fuck you!

12. Insurrectional Nihilism

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Subtitle: There Is No Hope, Therefore We Rebel

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: anarcho-nihilism, nihilism, insurrectionary anarchy, insurrectionism

Date: July 30, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-08-06T12:40:06


“Rebels without a cause” is often used as a derision against those who seek the destruction of status quo without any idea as to what should replace it; it’s a common accusation thrown at nihilists and other anarchists, oftentimes even by leftists. But must rebels have a cause? Every cause comes with it a blueprint for the future, a new world order to be established in the ruins of the old world. But there’s no guarantee that anyone’s vision of the future is truly an improvement on the human condition, or that it will survive contact with human nature. And while we’re waiting on the futurists and visionaries to plot the perfect order, people are dying of existing systems of oppression as we speak, and any delay is little different from a death sentence to these minorities and marginalized. From a nihilist point of view, the so-called human “progress” is little more than the same oppressors getting better public relations, and it’s more than likely that nothing about the world – past, present, or even future – is worth keeping. Under this premise, wanton destruction is not only acceptable, it’s in fact desirable for nihilists, whose job is to tear down everything that currently exists and facilitate perpetual revolutions in the future.

While nihilists may sneer at the very idea of rebranding, there is some merit in separating nihilists who choose to resist the injustice of the world from those that choose apathy and inaction; anarcho-nihilism was the term used in Blessed is the Flame by Serafinski, which some views as redundant when nihilism is readily a strain of anarchism, and it nevertheless falls prey to Capitalist propaganda of all anarchists being nihilists. Insurrectional nihilism, then, focuses the conversation on what separates these nihilists from others: unbridled rage at the status quo and a burning desire to see the world reduced to cinder.

Insurrectional nihilism is also a good contrast to something we like to call “institutional nihilism,” an attitude commonly exhibits by political moderates and centrists: that since better things aren’t possible and status quo is God, any resistance is futile and any change should be rejected. While these cowards will never accept the nihilist label, they start out with the same premise of “no future,” and arrived at the bleakest conclusion: instead of the outrage, despair, or humor of other nihilists, institutional nihilists chose the path of aggressive apathy. They will never fight systems of oppression in any way, shape, and form, and they don’t even have the decency to get out of the way and watch the world burn. They insist on burying and ridiculing anyone who wants to put up a fight and potentially make a difference, however small and temporary it may be. They saw a world without hope and decide to keep everyone in it so all can suffer with them. We see the same world without hope and future, but we decide to raise bloody hell and burn it all down, because it deserves to burn and there’s just a small chance that something better might be built in its ashes. While institutional nihilists are cynics with utter faith in their privilege to trample everyone beneath their feet, we are idealists who believes in nothing but the right and necessity to rebel, to resist, and to fight.

We are insurrectional nihilists. There is no hope, therefore we rebel.

13. Second Wave “Feminism” Is Feminism...

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Subtitle: ...In the Same Way That National “Socialism” Is Socialism

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: transphobia, racism, fascism

Date: December 24, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-12-27T14:59:59


It’s true! Both of them does what it advertises, but only for the people it doesn’t send to the death camps. Under National “Socialism”, the people do indeed share the long as they are pure Aryans and toe the party line; similarly, under Second Wave “Feminism”, men and women do indeed enjoy the same rights, so long as you don’t challenge pseudo-scientific and sex-based social roles. How curious it is that both “ideology” is based on rigid hierarchy that argues for the inherent superiority of some, inflicted upon the people against their will?

What is the common word for an “ideology” based on essentialist arguments and hierarchy? Fascism. It’s just fucking Fascism. Just because Liberals can’t recognize a Fash if they crawled up the Libruh’s face and chewed their nose off so long as the Fash doesn’t wear a swastika doesn’t mean the Fash isn’t there; quite the contrary, in fact. When your “democracy” is built upon a slave market in which wealth can be used to generate more wealth and then passed down to one’s offspring, money essentially becomes an essentialist attribute like sex or race.

The Crapitalist “Meritocracy” goes thus: we’re on top because we’re superior, we’re superior because we’re on top, so on and so forth, ad infinitum and ad nauseam. It’s the exact same argument used by Fascists: we’re on top because we’re the master race, we’re the master race because we’re on top, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. With these implicit hierarchies baked deep into the world narrative by white Imperialists and Colonists, is it any surprise that the “free” market and Liberal “democracy” of today is indistinguishable from Fascism?

It’s richly ironic and hilariously hypocritical that no one bemoans Liberal identity politics more than Fascists, when in truth the Reich-wingers are the biggest fans of Liberal idpol. Sure, sure, there are plenty of “Leftists” who just want to use their class struggle as an excuse to be anti-idpol so they can be racists or queerphobes, but Fascists quite literally invent both their identity and victimhood from nothing: an Aryan heritage that never existed, a trans agenda they can’t elaborate on, shapeshifting lizard Zionists in league with the Maoists!

If the last sentence sounded increasingly like a fucking shitpost, that’s because it is: Fascism by any other name is just the shitpost of ideologies — they either don’t actually offer a way to organize society for the betterment of all, or they steal ideas from other ideologies to justify their own bullshit. It’s nothing but a cruel and sad fucking joke, and it’s the “ideology” that had been running the world for a century and more. Is it any wonder that our society had became more absurd and meaningless than anything ever dreamed up by a Dadaist?

No one hates Fascists more than us Anarchists. Unlike the right-wing “Libertarians” that had increasingly became little more than Social Darwinists drooling over a Neo-Feudal society, we’re the only ones with the audacity to reject all coercion and hierarchy, the ultimate killjoys with the the galls to tell the Reich-wing chucklefucks “your horseshit of an ideology is the biggest joke in human history and it’s not even funny” when everyone else just laughs politely and hopes that the joke won’t turn on them. Cowardly chickenshit, all of them!

If Fascism is a joke, then Anarchism is the punchline, and it doesn’t mean we should punch Fascists; after all, the only time when punching Fascists is acceptable is when methods of higher lethality are unavailable. The way we see it, either we Anarchists would laugh in triumph as our visions of a better future dawn on the human species, or at least one of us would live long enough to give the finger to the world and tell the boot-licking assholes “I warned you about States bro, I told you dog!”. Either way, we’ll have the last laugh. Ha!

14. The Fox Knows the Hen

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Subtitle: Deconstructing the Token Minority Defense

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: tokenism, racism, transphobia, oppression, liberalism

Date: June 5, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-06-05T09:58:04


“I can’t be racist, I have black friends!” We have all heard this mantra used in defense of bigotry and poor behavior, from people across the entire political spectrum, with infinite variations to justify queerphobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and more. We all know it’s a load of bullshit, but just how bullshit is it? Simply put, it flattens the incredibly complex issue of systematic bigotry into a reductive binary of in-group and out-group, and argues that it’s impossible for members of the in-group to commit discrimination against other members of the in-group, which is plainly untrue.

Let’s consider an equivalent but much more obviously absurd statement: “the fox knows the hen for it spent a night in the hen house”. It is true that the fox spent a night in the hen kill and eat the hen! Much like the token minority argument, this statement ignored the inherent imbalance of power between the two; the fox may indeed know the hen – as delicious food, which has nothing to do with the feeling of the hen when it’s being eaten by the fox. Equivalently, just because someone is an ally of minority groups does not mean they know what it feels like to be marginalized and oppressed.

Obviously, the above is an argument by absurdity, since allies aren’t preying upon marginalized people, but it’s a visceral reminder of entrenched power structures: minority groups are often fearful of contradicting our privileged allies, for fear of losing what little support these allies had deemed fit to grace us with. This is why tone-policing is so toxic and arguably do more to perpetrate systematic oppression than the odd violent bigot: when the privileged tells the marginalized to shut the fuck up and be nicer, often the minority feels as if we have no choice but to subject to the bullying of our “allies.”

There’s also the matter of boot-lickers, members of minority groups who had bought their way into the power structure of the privileged groups by selling out their own people. There’s nothing that a Nazi likes more than a Jewish corroborator like Ben Shapiro, for they can claim that such a boot-licker speaks as a marginalized person when they say they are not oppressed. And it’s true: that particular person is not oppressed, they are one of the oppressors, using their token status to help stomping the down-trodden into the ground to maintain their status among the powerful.

Remember, dividing people into groups based on essential attributes like sex or race is an inherently reactionary concept; much of right-wing propaganda thrives on such false equivalence. This is why J. K. Rowling was flatly gaslighting people when she claimed that trans women are “the fox in the hen house”; the fact that she can say such bigoted things and not only get away with it, but even have people like Richard K. Morgan bending backwards to support her, shows that she and transphobes like her are the foxes with the power, while the trans people they abuse are the vulnerable hens.

And it goes beyond just people: a common talking point against Anti-Fascism is that all violence is inherently wrong, so Antifa who break windows or BLM who loot stores are the real Fascists, never mind that the real Fascists — white supremacists — have all the power and could literally get away with murder. Property damage is not in any way comparable to human death and suffering, and using violence to stop violence is completely different from using violence to maintain power. Nevertheless, the Liberal’s love of endless discourse and hand-wringing makes them easy prey for such lies.

We as leftists and especially Anarchists must never fall prey to the beautiful flower of simplicity, for its fruit of false equivalence is a poison to human minds and souls. The real world is messy, complex, and filled with ambiguities; we must be vigilant and constant gardeners, rooting out the grass of preconception from our own minds before it can take roots. Otherwise we would be as easy a prey to right-wing propaganda and conspiracy theories as the Liberals, and become revolutionaries in name only.

15. The Ones Who Came Back to Omelas

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Subtitle: A Sequel to The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: fan fiction, fiction, science fiction, insurrectionism

Date: September 2, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-09-23T13:39:52


I was wrong. They came back. One by one, at first, then in groups of dozens and hundreds. The look on their faces is as incomprehensible to me and you as the city of Omelas itself, for it is not rage or despair that is written in the knot of their brows or the steel glint of their eyes. Perhaps the narrow-minded will call it hatred, but that is merely an inadequacy of the language, for the cold contempt of an exploiter is not anything like the burning flame in the hearts of the exploited, nor is it anything similar to the raw diamond of determination that clenches the fists of these people, the ones who came back to Omelas. For despite their obsession with pain and evil, the artists had always been content with manufacturing their own agony and despair, and had never once looked true suffering and wickedness in the eyes.

So here they come, the ones who came back to Omelas. They come like a hurricane, with firebombs in their hands and firelight in their eyes, tearing down the perfect walls and beautiful houses of Omelas, showering its joyful and thoughtful people with flame. “Until there’s justice for all innocents”, said one of them, “There will be no peace for the complacent.” So on and on they go, the ones who came back to Omelas, with their bombs and their guns and their cries, bringing guilt and shame and fear to the city at last. They kill without hesitation and destroy without discrimination, for truly it is no longer justice they seek, since they know there will be no justice to be had, none except for the silence of the grave.

Do you believe me now, about the city of Omelas? It is not so different from your city, I say; maybe it’s nicer and cleaner, the people more loving and enlightened, but in the end it is not so different. There is a child in your city too; have you ever gone to visit it, see it being caged in darkness, forced to wallow in its own filth? If not, then you will never understand them, the ones who came back to Omelas. They had all walked away, in rage or despair or shame, and most of them were never seen again. But it is not any emotion we can recognize that brought them back, it is not rage or shame or even guilt. Surely as the night cannot comprehend the light of the day, nor can we ever understand the light in their eyes.

How many of them there are, the ones who walked away from your city? And how many of them there are, the ones who came back? Believe me, they will; maybe not yet, not at first, but they will come back. One by one, at first, then in groups of dozens and hundreds. They will come back with firebombs in their hands and firelight in their eyes, shouting: “Until there’s justice for all innocents, there will be no peace for the complacent.” For the city of Omelas is truly as banal as any other, both in its radiant splendor and its corrupted heartbeat. They will come back to your city too, the ones who walk away from Omelas; they will bring guilt and shame and fear, all of which you know you richly deserved.

Do you believe me now, about the ones who came back to Omelas?

16. White Supremacy Is a Disease

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Subtitle: And the Only Cure Is Anarchy

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: anti-racism, insurrectionary

Date: December 23, 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2020-12-27T14:52:52


It’s easy to understand why white people would become white supremacists; you get to be a superior human being simply for being white, why the fuck not? And once white supremacy is sufficiently embedded inside a culture, it’s also not difficult to fathom why some people of color would become boot-lickers in a misguided attempt to carve out their own slice of Hell. It is, however, relatively puzzling how people in cultures where the majority of people are not white — such as the many US vassal states in East Asia — would become white supremacist.

Of course, white supremacy had controlled the narratives of the world for the better part of the century — if not more — thanks to propaganda masked as entertainment, a tactic favored by authoritarians of all stripes. When every film you saw involves a Jihadist or Anarchist as a villain, it’s easy for people to buy into the lie and ignore the reality: white supremacists are responsible for the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the US. When you believe that the US is the paragon of freedom, it’s easy to believe that Fascism is in fact the ultimate democracy.

But for US vassal states like Japan and Taiwan, the learned white supremacy is built upon a much deeper root of inherent racism. The “black face” stereotype was in fact one of the first cultural import from the West into Japan, and even now their culture as a whole refuse to renounce their ally in WWII...namely, the Nazis. Taiwan, for its part, had always employed the red scare narrative as a mean to control the masses, which necessitates setting the US up as the ultimate good against the evil of Communism, thus justifying all the crimes of the US.

White supremacists, for their part, are happy to fan the fire by hailing these vassal States as shiny jewels of democracy against the darkness of Communism, hailing the legalization of gay marriage as a victory for queer liberation…when the so-called progressives in Taiwan believed that the basic human rights of gay people should be up to a popularity contest. And like little dogs got petted by their owners, they easily bought into whatever stories the West sell them, swallowing huge loads of queerphobic and racist bullshit with an ecstatic grin.

If that boot-licking mentality sounds familiar, it’s because it is. It’s the same fake dualism enforced by tyrants world wide: Liberal and Conservative, Left and Right, Men and Women, yadda yadda yadda. And just like all such manufactured binaries, it’s total horseshit. This is the same mentality as the tankies: since the US is the ultimate evil, anyone who fights the US is a good “Leftist”, even if they commit genocide. None of them give a shit about the things they claim to care about: not human rights or lives, not freedom or justice, nothing, nada!

All they care about is power, and since white supremacists have power, they are willing to throw anyone else under the bus to get a piece. It is little surprise then that so many Asian Americans supported Donald because of the red scare, and how many black people attacked Asian people since they bought into the “Chinese virus” narrative. They would rather hurt each other under the command of dictators by any other names than banding together against their oppressors. Rats fighting for scarps, exactly where the white cats want them.

“Revolution starts in the mind” is more than just words. Implicit hierarchies like gender binary or white supremacy (which are really one and the same) prosecutes innocents just as much as — and often more than — laws and regulations do. Many marginalized people have reservations about systematic changes because so long as the implicit hierarchies stay, no system of government — even the lack of one — will truly liberate them. We have to remind ourselves that Anarchists aren’t just outlaws: we’re against ALL hierarchy and coercion.

White supremacy is a disease, and the only cure is Anarchy: total annihilation of the status quo.

17. A Tranarchist Manifesto

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Subtitle: Transgender, Transhuman, Anarchism

Author: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Authors: Magical Comrade Molotov Catgirl

Topics: Anarcho-Transhuman, anarcho-transhumanism, transgender

Date: December 22, 2019

Date Published on T@L: 2020-02-04T08:00:29


The outline of this manifesto had been bouncing around our headspace for quite some time now, but we have not deemed it fit to put it into writing, due to our disappointment at how the conversations about Transhumanism had been dominated by cishet white male libertarians. But the revelation of Richard K. Morgan — who wrote one of the most popular Transhumanist fiction in Altered Carbon — as a transphobe had changed our minds: for far too long our visions of technologies and their many promises had been controlled by the Conservative establishment and enslaved to exploitative Social Darwinists, to which we say: no more! In this text, we’ll outline a philosophy we call Tranarchism, which differs from the existing idea of Anarcho-Transhumanism in that we believe in the present day, the rights of trans people, above all else, is essential to the development and eventual blossoming of both Transhumanism and Anarchism. We seek to argue that trans rights, Transhumanism, and Anarchism are three sides of the same triangle, and it’ll eventually come a time when one cannot exist without the other two.

First, on trans rights. Going by the most inclusive definition, a trans person is just anyone who doesn’t always identify with the gender arbitrarily assigned to them by so-called medical “professionals” based on the outward appearance of their genitalia. We know, as a scientific fact, that biological sex exists on a spectrum, and the concept of binary sex is nothing but a social construct created by the establishment to control the people; genders are even more varied and complex, and anyone who seeks to gatekeep and control gender identities are just tyrants in their narrow and little minds. That trans rights — the right to reject a role imposed upon oneself based on arbitrary, essentialist standards — is the most fundamental of morphological freedoms should go without saying, but as it is always the case with the cishets, it needed to be said: you cannot, in good conscience, support or explore a Transhumanist ideology that challenges the very idea of humanity, while holding onto such outdated and conservative ideas like binary sex and gender. Anarchists, who seek to abolish all systems of oppression, should pour their effort into the fight for trans rights, for the system of binary sex and gender roles are the oldest and most evil of these institutions. If you cannot see beyond it, you are not fit for either Transhumanism or Anarchism — the only kind of free thinker you are is one free from the burden of thinking for yourself.

Second, on Transhumanism. At its most basic level, Transhumanism is simply the idea that we can and should transcend human limitations through technological means. While libertarians would no doubt claim the honor of creating the ideology, Transhumanist ideas had existed since the dawn of the human species, in the epic of Gilgamesh when he set out to find the elixir of immortality. In fact, one may very well argue that Transhumanism is practiced today, with trans people who modify their biochemistry through hormones, and people with disabilities who overcome them with technologies like hearing aids or wheelchairs. Humanity had always coexisted and co-evolved with technologies: the idea that we’ll be able to stop doing so is not only foolish, it’s inherently transphobic and ableist. We would argue that Transhumanism is simply an extension and generalization of trans rights into the broader idea of morphological freedom: if we believe that a trans person should be allowed to modify their bodies to fit their gender, should we deny an otherkin or furry the right to modify their body to become their ideal selves, should the technology ever become available? We think not, not unless one wishes to be a hypocrite. However, we believe that Transhumanism cannot — and in fact, should not — exist under State and Capital. It’s as Gibson said: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” So long as centralized power exists in the form of State or Capital, technological progress will always serve as a tool of oppression and exploitation for the establishment first and foremost, before it eventually trickles down to the masses...if ever. The kind of technological wonder promised by Transhumanism is nothing short of nightmarish for the people if wielded by an authoritarian establishment.

Last but not the least, Anarchism. Contrary to Capitalist propaganda, Anarchism doesn’t mean a lack of rules, nor do Anarchists reject labor. The word “anarchy” simply means “without leader”; we seek to abolish all unjust systems and hierarchies, instead of sowing discord for the sake of discord. It just so happens that throughout human history, laws put forth by State and Capital had always been created to protect the establishment and control the masses. What we reject is work, or wage slavery: the mandate that you must sell your labor for a fraction of its worth or face execution by starvation. So long as there exists a hierarchy, someone will have to be stamped underfoot, and throughout the history of the so-called Western “civilization”, trans people had always been on the lowest rung in society regardless of what kind of state the State is in. It is our belief that only a total abolishment of all hierarchy will see the liberation of trans people, once and for all. While some Anarchists had turned reactionary and embraced Primitivism, seeing technology and civilization as one and the same as State and Capital, we know that it is not the case: we’ve seen how new technology enabled the people to organize and fight back in ways never before thought possible. It is our belief that technology, put into the hands of the people instead of the establishment, will hasten the destruction of state and capital and not only enable but improve an anarchist society.

Trans rights. Transhumanism. Anarchism. The three sides form a triangle of liberty and equality, where all people are empowered to determine exactly who they are, from the state of their minds to the shape of their bodies. We concede that it is possible that humanity had not yet reached a point where our collective consciousness is ready for such radical self-determination, but we trust in humanity’s ability to learn from mistakes and improve, if only painfully slowly. The time will eventually come when all people, without fault, are ready to embrace and enjoy the fruits of technology in a society without state or capital, when people finally learn to rule their own lives independent of establishment and hierarchies. It is the duty of us, as Tranarchists, to facilitate and prepare for this transition, so that when the time finally arrives that technology is able to give us all that we dreamed of, all obstacles are removed and it is the people who reap that reward.

All for all!

18. ‘Human Rights’ and the Discontinuous Mind

Deleted reason: Discussion pending

Author: Anonymous

Authors: Anonymous

Topics: anthropocentrism, anti-civilisation, biology, evolution, human rights, science

Date: 16th July 2011

Date Published on T@L: 2011-09-19 16:48:29 +0200

Source: Retrieved on September 19th, 2011 from

Modern language is loaded with hidden cultural assumptions, biases, and projections of value. A given language or dialect betrays the underlying edifice on which its social structures are based. These hidden assumptions include our own prejudices, values, and moral judgements; forming the self-reinforcing jigsaw of our worldview. For example, if we long to increase our lifespans, then breakthroughs in medical research to combat aging become desirable — more efficient medicine is ‘better’ medicine; likewise, if we believe that spending less time travelling from A to B is inherently a good thing, then a faster route automatically becomes a ‘preferred’ route.

A good analogy might be a three-dimensional web of interconnected relations in which certain ideas precede, follow from, and depend upon each other for support. In the case of medical research, say, the sort of language we use springs mainly from a fear of death and disease. But it also reinforces and contributes to this fear (as well as to an obsession with the passing of time, a strife for self-preservation, and so on, ad nauseum).

Some of the assumptions borne by our language play a meaningful role — for instance, the idea that rape is evil precedes most of our dialogue on the topic. Most would agree that this is a good thing. Other cases might be less clearcut, but in general, we could say that the greater the potential for suffering or harm resulting from a particular idea, the more attention we should pay to the assumptions of our language around it.

Take the almost ubiquitous cultural assumption that humans deserve an exalted status above other living beings. Arguments for the equality of a particular group of people often take the form of a case to establish the ‘human rights’ of that group. Such rights, by definition limited to members of our own species, hold a very powerful sway in popular thought. Socialists, feminists, gay rights activists, secularists and other such campaigners award a primacy and value to these rights: successfully establishing something as a ‘human right’ is considered a crucial element of the fight to have it recognised or upheld.

Interestingly and importantly, campaign groups such as those listed above frequently attempt to raise consciousness of their own issues and agendas by questioning or objecting to popular turns of phrase; feminists deliberately use the pronoun ‘she’ instead of ‘he’, many secularists prefer not to be ‘blessed’ or to ‘thank god’, etc. Merely by altering popular language on a topic, an important aspect of liberation is achieved.

Similarly, the linguistic and conceptual deliniation between ‘human’ and ‘non-human’ rights directly affects our actions and attitudes towards other living beings. It is an offshoot of our collective anthropocentrism that allows us to justify our treatment of these species in a manner lesser to that of other human beings. One could be forgiven, then, for presuming that it is based upon sound, legitimate reasoning; as obvious as the wrongfulness of sexism or racial prejudice within our own species.

Yet this could not be further from the truth. By almost any measure, there is no conceivable warrant for our mindset towards other species. Scientifically, environmentally, and even practically speaking, we are railing against what is natural and right.

In his essay Gaps in the Mind, evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins explains that species are neatly grouped and unique only from the conceited hindsight and perspective of our study.

It is we who choose to divide animals up into discontinuous species. On the evolutionary view of life there must have been intermediates, even though, conveniently for our naming rituals, they are usually extinct: usually, but not always.

He goes onto give an example to prove the point, referencing so-called ‘ring species’, which are loosely defined as a pair of species that can be seen to ‘blend’ into one another over geographical space. Intermediate forms still live — and interbreed — all along the gradient of change between these species. There is no point at which a herring gull ‘becomes’ a lesser black-backed gull, there is only a continuous line of forms connecting both varieties over geographical space and resembling them in different ways. They have clearly diverged over evolutionary time, but the intermediaries still live, and it would be ridiculous to regard any particular form as being ‘superior’ or more ‘advanced’; each thrives within its own space and its own environment.

Dawkins relates this to the taxonomic position of humans:

The word ‘apes’ usually means chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans, gibbons and siamangs. We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes. Our common ancestor with the chimpanzees and gorillas is much more recent than their common ancestor with the Asian apes — the gibbons and orang-utans. There is no natural category that includes chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans but excludes humans.

He concludes:

It is sheer luck that this handful of intermediates [between humans and chimpanzees] no longer exists. (’Luck’ from some points of view: for myself, I should love to meet them.) But for this chance, our laws and our morals would be very different. We need only discover a single survivor, say a relict Australopithecus in the Budongo Forest, and our precious system of norms and ethics would come crashing about our ears. The boundaries with which we segregate our world would be all shot to pieces. Racism would blur with speciesism in obdurate and vicious confusion. Apartheid, for those that believe in it, would assume a new and perhaps a more urgent import.

From the perspective of our science, then, the concept of a ‘human right’ holds little water. If only the chain of intermediate forms between humans and chimpanzees still survived and interbred, the absurdity of our attempts to implement such a notion would be all too apparent (and so on through the intermediaries with ancestral gorillas, etc.). How ironic it is, then, that vast swathes of those who so indignantly proclaim the need to protect ‘human rights’ are the very same people who believe themselves to be the most rational and scientific!

When we fully recognise that all living species are wholly interrelated, both in ancestral terms and through a single, shared, livable planet, we come to see other species not as objects of utility but as deserving of respect. They form a facet of the environment from which we are inseperable. As Charles Eisenstein puts it in The Ascent of Humanity, “any attempt to divorce a rational society or a rational life from the organic supporting matrix where it belongs requires tremendous effort and incurs tremendous danger. Such a life or society is tenuous, fragile, and short-lived. It cannot exist for long without reconnecting to the wellspring of life.”

It is in this light that we should seek to review and reform our perspectives, our thought and our language, regarding humans and other species. It is not — and has never been — a case of ‘us and them’, but a unified whole of which we are all a necessary part.

19. Chile: Anatomy of an economic miracle, 1970–1986

Deleted reason: discussion pending

Author: Black Flag

Topics: Black Flag, Chile, 1973, neoliberalism

Date: 1999

Date Published on T@L: 2013-09-11 12:05:38 +0000

Source: Retrieved on September 11th 2013 From

Anatomy of an Economic Miracle

With the arrest of General Pinochet, the usual slime of the right pronounced that his dictatorship created an economic “miracle.” We will ignore the “ends justify the means” argument along with the question of why these defenders of “liberty” desire to protect a dictator and praise his regime. Here we concentrate on the facts of the “miracle” imposed on the Chilean people.

The actual results of the free market policies introduced by the dictatorship were far less than the “miracle” claimed by the right. The initial effects of introducing free market policies in 1975 was a shock-induced depression which resulted in national output falling buy 15 percent, wages sliding to one-third below their 1970 level and unemployment rising to 20 percent. This meant that, in per capita terms, Chile’s GDP only increased by 1.5% per year between 1974–80. This was considerably less than the 2.3% achieved in the 1960’s.

Supporters of the “miracle” pointed to the period 1978 to 1981, when the economy grew at 6.6 percent a year. However, this is a case of “lies, damn lies, and statistics” as it does not take into account the catching up an economy goes through as it leaves a recession. If we look at whole business cycle, rather than for the upturn, we find that Chile had the second worse rate of growth in Latin America between 1975 and 1980. The average growth in GDP was 1.5% per year between 1974 and 1982, which was lower than the average Latin American growth rate of 4.3% and lower than the 4.5% of Chile in the 1960’s. Between 1970 and 1980, per capita GDP grew by only 8%, while for Latin America as a whole, it increased by 40% and for the years 1980 and 1982 per capita GDP fell by 12.9 percent, compared to a fall of 4.3 percent for Latin America as a whole. In 1982, after 7 years of free market capitalism, Chile faced yet another economic crisis which, in terms of unemployment and falling GDP was even greater than that experienced during the terrible shock treatment of 1975. Real wages dropped sharply, falling in 1983 to 14 percent below what they had been in 1970. Bankruptcies skyrocketed, as did foreign debt. By the end of 1986 Gross Domestic Product per capita barely equalled that of 1970. Between 1970 and 1989, Chile total GDP grew by a lackluster 1.8 to 2.0% a year, slower than most Latin American countries. The high growth, in other words, was a product of the deep recessions that the regime created and, overall, 20 years of free market miracle had .

The working class

By far the hardest group affected by the Pinochet “reforms” was the working class, particularly the urban working class. By 1976, the third year of Junta rule, real wages had fallen to 35% below their 1970 level. It was only by 1981 that they has risen to 97.3% of the 1970 level, only to fall again to 86.7% by 1983. Unemployment, excluding those on state make-work programmes, was 14.8% in 1976, falling to 11.8% by 1980 (this is still double the average 1960’s level) only to rise to 20.3% by 1982. By 1986, per capita consumption was actually 11% lower than the 1970 level. Between 1980 and 1988, the real value of wages grew only 1.2 percent while the real value of the minimum wage declined by 28.5 percent. During this period, urban unemployment averaged 15.3 percent per year. In other words, after nearly 15 years of free market capitalism, real wages had still not exceeded their 1970 levels. Moreover, labour’s share in the national income fell from 52.3% to 30.7% between 1970 and 1989. In 1995, real wages were still 10% lower than in 1986 and 18% lower than during the Allende period!

The real “Miracle”

However, the other main effect of the Pinochet years was the increased wealth of the elite, and for this that it has been claimed as a “miracle.” Between 1970, the richest 10% of the population saw their share in the national income rise from 36.5% in 1980 to 46.8% by 1989 (the bottom 50% saw their share fall from 20.4 to 16.8%). In the words of one of the best known opposition economists, “the Chilean system is easy to understand. Over the past twenty years $60 billion has been transferred from salaries to profits.”

Thus the wealth created by the economic growth Chile experienced did not “trickle down” to the working class (as claimed would happen by “free market” capitalist dogma) but instead accumulated in the hands of the rich. Just as it did not in the UK and the USA.

The proportion of the population below the poverty line (the minimum income required for basic food and housing) increased from 20% to 44.4%. On the other hand, while consumption for 80% of Chilean households dropped between 1970 and 1989, it rose from 44.5% to 54.6% for the richest 20% (the poorest 20% suffered the worse drop, from 7.6% to 4.4%, followed by the next 20%, from 11.8% to 8.2%, then the next 20%, 15.6% to 12.7%).

State Aid

The Pincohet’s regime support for “free market” capitalism did not prevent it organising a massive bail-out of the economy during the 1982 recession — yet another example of market discipline for the working class, welfare for the rich. As was the case in the USA and the UK.

The ready police repression (and “unofficial” death squads) made strikes and other forms of protest both impractical and dangerous. The law was also changed to reflect the power property owners have over their wage slaves and the total overhaul of the labour law system which took place between 1979 and 1981 aimed at creating a perfect labour market, eliminating collective bargaining, allowing massive dismissal of workers, increasing the daily working hours up to twelve hours and eliminating the labour courts. Little wonder, then, that this favourable climate for business operations resulted in generous lending by international finance institutions.

Of course, the supporters of the Chilean “Miracle” and its “economic liberty” did not bother to question how the suppression of political liberty effected the economy or how people acted within it. They maintained that the repression of labour, the death squads, the fear installed in rebel workers would be ignored when looking at the economy. But in the real world, people will put up with a lot more if they face the barrel of a gun than if they do not. And this fact explains much of the Chilean “miracle.” According to Sergio de Castro, the architect of the economic programme Pinochet imposed, dictatorship was required to introduce “economic liberty” because:

“it provided a lasting regime; it gave the authorities a degree of efficiency that it was not possible to obtain in a democratic regime; and it made possible the application of a model developed by experts and that did not depend upon the social reactions produced by its implementation.”

In other words, “economic liberty” required rule by technocrats and the military. The regime’s pet “experts” used the Chilean people like laboratory rats in an experiment to make the rich richer. This is the system held up by the right as a “miracle” and an example of “economic liberty.” Like the “economic miracle” created by Thatcher, we discover a sharp difference between the facts and the rhetoric. And like Thatcher’s regime, it made the rich richer and the poor poorer, a true “miracle.”

So, for all but the tiny elite at the top, the Pinochet regime of “economic liberty” was a nightmare. Economic “liberty” only seemed to benefit one group in society, an obvious “miracle.” For the vast majority, the “miracle” of economic “liberty” resulted, as it usually does, in increased poverty, unemployment, pollution, crime and social alienation. The irony is that many on the right point to it as a model of the benefits of the free market.

20. The IWW in Canada

Author: G. Jewell

Topics: IWW, Canada, unions, syndicalism

Date Published on T@L: 2013-08-07 06:45:32 +0000

Source: <>

Notes: Leaflet on the birth and history of the Canadian section of Industrial Workers of the World.



General Introduction

Established in 1886, the American Federation of Labor had by the turn of the century secured its domination over North American organized labour. True, the federation was still a shaky affair; the AFL — interested primarily in “respectable” craft unions — refused to organize the great bulk of industrial workers. But with the Knights of Labor (the first genuine, albeit mystical attempt to bring all workers together under one all-embracing organization) everything but buried, and industrial unions like the American Railway Union destroyed and the Western Federation of Miners under increasing attack by the mine owners, the AFL managed to establish hegemony and either batter down or absorb all rivals.

This craft union hegemony existed in Canada as well as the United States. The original Canadian unions — insular and indecisive — failed. The same fate met the first mass- industrial union from the U.S., the Knights. In 1902, the Trades and Labour Congress, already the leading force in Canadian labour and controlled by the AFL union branches in Canada, expelled from its ranks all Canadian national unions, British internationals, and the Knights of Labor. The opposition formed a Canadian Federation of Labour (CFL) but it never amounted to much. Prospects seemed clear for the TLC and, behind it, Samuel Gompers, U.S. president of the AFL.

Yet only three years were to pass before the IWW emerged as a revolutionary challenge.

Birth of the IWW

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded in 1905 in Chicago. The driving force behind the new union was the Western Federation of Miners, which had been fighting a bloody but losing battle throughout the western US and Canada. Joining were the WFM’s parent, the American Labor Union (which included several hundred members in B.C) the United Brotherhood of Railway Employees, and Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance. Observers were sent from the United Metal Workers (US and Canada), the North American branch of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers of Great Britain, the International Musicians Union, the Bakers Union, and others.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Big Bill Haywood of the WFM, Eugene Debs of the Socialist Party, Mother Jones of the United Mine Workers, DeLeon, Lucy Parsons, anarchist and widow of a Haymarket martyr, Father Hagerty, who drew up the One Big Union industrial structure, and William Trautmann from German Brewery Workers of Milwaukee (who was expelled from that union for his participation in the IWW convention). Trautmann’s and Hagerty’s views were influenced by European anarcho-syndicalism, as were Haywood’s by the revolutionary syndicalism of the French CGT. A claimed membership of 50,827 was pledged to the IWW. The professed aim was nothing less than the overthrow of the capitalist system by and for the working class.

Two months later, after the United Metal Workers brought in 700 of their claimed 3,000 members, the actual total of union members was a mere 4,247. There was a magnificent $817.59 in the treasury. The new union had begun to march on the wrong foot and the AFL crowed with delight. Within a few years all the founding organizations had either quit the IWW or had been expelled. By 1910, a low year with only 9,100 dues-paid members, the IWW was the unruly bastard of the labor movement, ridiculously challenging the AFL and the Capitalist Class to a battle to the death.

However, the IWW then suddenly burst out with an amazing explosive force, becoming a mass movement in the US, Canada, Australia, and Chile, and leaving a fiery mark on labour in South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Great Britain and the world maritime industry.

The reasons for this sudden expansion lay at the very root of the economic crisis underlying capitalist society in the years immediately prior to the First World War. To begin with, organized labour, divided as it was into squabbling craft unions, was in a pitiful state, unable to effect even the most innocuous reforms. The larger mass of unorganized and chronically under-employed workers lived in appalling misery as it reeled from a capitalist “boom and bust” cycle of high speculation followed by crushing depression every five or ten years.

Yet despite this seemingly tremendous weakness of the working class, many unionists had already recognized the great power inherent in the vast industrial monopolies which the ever-shrinking number of super-industrialists themselves scarcely knew how to handle. That a working class already trained in the operating of these industries might continue to do so in the enforced absence of the capitalist owners was a matter of new-found faith and high expectations. At this particular moment, it was precisely the IWW which gave not only voice to these hopes and desires, but also offered the first INDUSTRIAL strategy to effect that transference of power.

The IWW, cutting across all craft lines, organized workers into industrial unions — so that no matter the task, all workers in one industry belonged to one industrial union. These industrial unions formed the component parts of six industrial departments: 1-Agriculture, Land, Fisheries and Water Products, 2-Mining, 3-Construction, 4-Manufacturing and General Production, 5-Transportation and Communication, and 6-Public Service. The industrial departments made up the IWW as a whole; yet although functioning independently, they were bridged by the rank and file power of the total general membership to vote on all union general policy and the election of all officers of the General Administration coordinating the industrial departments.

The IWW was characterized by a syndicalist reliance on the job branch at the shop floor level; a strong distrust of labour bureaucrats and leftist politicians; an emphasis on direct action and the propaganda of the deed. Above all, Wobblies believed in the invincibility of the General Strike, which to them meant nothing less than the ultimate lock-out of the capitalist class. They wrapped their theory and practise with a loose blanket of Marxist economic analysis and called for the abolition of the wage system.

The IWW pioneered the on the job strike, mass sit-downs, and the organization of unemployed, migrant, and immigrant working people. It captured the public imagination with free speech fights, gigantic labour pageants, and the most suicidal bluster imaginable. Its permanent features were an army of roving agitator-organizers on land and sea, little red song books, boxcar delegates, singing recruiters.

In Australia IWW members were involved in a plan to forge banknotes and bankrupt the state. During the Mexican revolution of 1911, Wobblies joined with Mexican anarchists in a military effort that set up a six-month red flag commune in Baja California. In the Don Basin they faced Cossacks; at Kronstadt they died under Trotsky’s treacherous guns; in the German ports they were silenced only by the Gestapo; in the CNT anarchist militias and the International Brigades they battled Franco.

Canada 1906 – 1918

The IWW immediately began organizing in Canada, and experienced erratic growth from 1906 to 1914, especially in B.C. and Alberta. The first Canadian IWW union charter was issued May 5, 1906 to the Vancouver Industrial Mixed Union No.322.

Five locals were formed in BC in 1906, including a Lumber Handlers Job Branch on the Vancouver docks composed mainly of North Vancouver Indians, known as the “Bows and Arrows.”

By 1911, the IWW claimed 10,000 members in Canada, notably in mining, logging, Alberta agriculture, longshoring and the textile industry. That year a local of IWW street labourers in Prince Rupert struck, initially bringing out 250 but swelling to 1,000 assorted strikers. 56 arrests resulted from several riots, and a special stockade was built to house them (reportedly by TLC union carpenters). A number of strikers were injured and wounded; the HMS Rainbow was called in to suppress the strike.

In 1912 the IWW fought a fierce free speech fight in Vancouver, forcing the city to rescind a ban on public street meetings.

Organizing began in 1911 among construction workers building the Canadian Northern Railway in BC. In September a quick strike of 900 workers halted 100 miles of construction. IWW organizer Biscay was kidnapped by the authorities and charged as a “dangerous character and a menace to public safety.” A threatened walkout by the entire Canadian Northern workforce prompted a not-guilty verdict in a speedy trial. In December, a 50-cents a day pay raise was won by on-the-job action.

The 1,000- Mile Picket Line

By February 1912, IWW membership on the CN stood at 8,000. A demand for adequate sanitation and an end to piece-rate or “gypo” wages was ignored by the government. On March 27, unable to further tolerate the unbearable living conditions in the work camps, the 8,000 “dynos and dirthands” walked out. The strike extended over 400 miles of territory, but the IWW established a “1,000-mile picket line” as Wobs picketed employment offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, San Francisco, and Minneapolis to halt recruitment of scabs.

Meanwhile the strike camps were so well run and disciplined that the press began calling the Yale camp in particular a “miniature socialist republic.” While not going that far, the west coast IWW weekly, Industrial Worker, proudly pointed to this example of working class solidarity in which Canadians, Americans, Italians, Austrians, Swedes, Norwegians, French and other countrymen — one huge melting pot into which creed, colour, flag, religion, language and all other differences had been flung — were welded together in common effort. Even “demon rum” was proscribed, which alone indicates the seriousness of the strikers.

Authorities arrested the strikers by the thousands for “unlawful assemblage” and vagrancy. Many were forcibly deported at gunpoint. But the picket lines held. In August they were joined by 3,000 construction workers on the Grand Trunk Pacific in BC and Alberta. The entire action, better known as the Fraser River or Fraser Canyon Strike, was popularized in song by Joe Hill’s “Where the Fraser River Flows.” The strike also spawned the nickname Wobbly. A Chinese restaurant keeper who fed strikers reputedly mispronounced “IWW” in asking customers “Are you eye wobble wobble?” and the name stuck.

The CN strike lasted until the fall of 1912, when exhausted strikers settled for a few minor improvements: better sanitary conditions and a temporary end to the gypo system. The BC Grand Trunk strike was called off in January 1913 after the Dominion government promised to enforce sanitation laws. A greater gain was development of the “camp delegate” system in which the IWW secretary in town delegated a worker to represent him in the field — a method later refined into the permanent “Job Delegate” system of the roving Agricultural Workers.

Other unique features of the strike are worth mentioning. One, used again in the 20’s on the Northern Railway strike in Washington, was to “scab on the job” by sending convert Wobs into scab camps to bring the workers out on strike. Another came in response to the “free” transportation offered scabs by the Railways on condition a man’s luggage was impounded until such time as his strike breaking wages repaid the fare. Large Wob contingents signed on, leaving the Railways with cheap suitcases stuffed with bricks and gunny sacks, and then deserted en route.

Edmonton, Alberta was then a major railroad construction center and in the winter of 1913- 14, thousands of workers from all over Canada and the US were stranded there without jobs or funds. The city fathers refused to alleviate their plight. The IWW established an Edmonton Unemployed League, demanding that the city furnish work to everybody regardless of race, colour or nationality, at a rate of 30 cents an hour, and further, that in the meantime the city distribute three 25-cent meal tickets to each man daily, tickets redeemable at any restaurant in town. These demands were backed by mass parades which police clubs and arrests could not stop.

On January 28, 1914 the Edmonton Journal headlined the news: IWW Triumphant! The city council provided a large hall for the homeless, passed out three 25-cent meal tickets to each man daily, and employed 400 people on a public project.

That summer the IWW began organizing a campaign in the Alberta wheat fields, but the guns of August were drawing near.

Repression in W.W.I

With the outbreak of World War one and Canada’s subservient entry as British cannon fodder, the federal government effected a number of articles in the War Measures legislation embodied in the British North America Act. IWW members were hit by a wave of harassment and arrests that presaged that which swept most of the American IWW leadership into jail in 1917–18 (by 1920 there were 2,000 Wobblies behind bars in the USA). In late 1914 the union could claim only 465 members in Canada and in 1915 its last three remaining branches dissolved. Agitation continued, however, especially among Finnish lumber workers in Northern Ontario.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused severe jitters in the ruling classes around the world and with the unilateral withdrawal of Russian forces from the war effort against Germany, the conflict in Europe reached a critical stage. This was coupled with a number of mutinies in the Allied forces and weary dissension on the homefronts. Repression was intensified and Canada a number of Wobblies were jailed in 1918. The “Vancouver World” of August 5, 1918 outlined the “facts” in the case of Ernest Lindberg and George Thompson:

Two IWW Prospects Caught in Police Trap-- Couple Declared Active at Logging Camps Arrested and German Literature is Seized... “Lot of Good Rebels Quitting, stated letter...Message in German to Tenant of House is postmarked Glissen. Lindberg, accused of delivering speeches in a logging bunkhouse, after which a number of workers quit their jobs and returned into the city, was held under the Idlers Act. Thompson, who is alleged to be a firebrand and whose connection with the pro-German element is said to be close, was charged with having banned literature in his possession, including copies of the Week, LaFollette’s Magazine (LaFollette: anti-war Progressive US Senator), and of the Lumber Worker, as well as letters written in German.

The World went on to editorialize:

** For some time past the Dominion authorities have been alive to the situation existing in the camps, and have been desirous that the ringleaders of the movement which is responsible for draining of the logging centres, should be found... By the arrest of Lindberg and Thompson, the authorities believe they have succeeded in locating two main workers in the IWW cause, although there are others who will be carefully watched and apprehended in due course... The IWW is the short term used for the Industrial Workers of the World, an American organization with very extreme policies, Bolsheviki principles, and far reaching aims for the betterment of the conditions of the masses. Like other large organizations, it has two factions, the red flagging element generally regarded as dangerous as inciters against the observance of law and order. The organization is disowned by all but the lowest type of union labour men, as well as by Socialists.***

On September 24, 1918, a federal order in council declared that while Canada was engaged in war, 14 organizations were to be considered unlawful, including the IWW and the Workers International Industrial Union (DeLeons’ expelled Detroit faction of the IWW).. Penalty for membership was set at 5 years in prison.

The same order banned meetings conducted in the language of any enemy country (German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Turkish etc) or in Russian, Ukrainian or Finnish (except for religious services.)

IWW organizer Dick Higgins was tried under the War Measures Act in Vancouver, but a defense by the Socialist Party of Canada kept him out of jail. In the USA, two of those receiving minor sentences were well known British Columbia unionists who had been temporarily organizing in the USA, as headlined in the B.C. Federationist September 1918: IWW Members Given Long Terms: G. Hardy and A.E.Sloper are among those who received year terms.

Postwar Growth

1918 witnessed a major change in Canadian Labour. The drive for industrial unionism resumed and stiffened resistance against the AFL affiliated TLC and the latter’s support for conscription and the suspension of civil liberties.

This groundswell culminated in the founding of the One Big Union at the Western Labour Conference in Calgary in March 1919. Directly affiliated to the OBU were a number of independent mining and lumber industrial unions, but its influence reached into a majority of TLC locals west of Port Arthur, Ontario. This explosive mix of militant independent unionists and rebellious TLC units resulted in the Winnipeg General Strike that summer. It began with the building trades striking for recognition, followed by the metal trades, and on until 30,000 workers were out directly or in sympathy and a Central Strike Committee was running the city. Fred Tipping, a member of the Strike Committee, explains the situation:

First of all, you should remember that there were a series of unsuccessful strikes through 1918. In a sense the 1919 strike was a climax to many months of labour unrest due to a great deal of unemployment after the War, big increases in prices and no job security. Bear in mind too that Winnipeg and Vancouver were centres of advanced radical thought at the time. The Socialist Party of Canada/Marxist had been strong for a number of years and had gained support among industrial workers and even farmers. In the Winnipeg Trades and labour Council you would find men who were Marxists and others who supported the IWW. There was also the Social Democratic Party, many of these people were strong enthusiasts for the Russian revolution and were commonly called Bolsheviki. When the Social Democrats split during the War some of these later joined the Communist parties. Others of us became members of the Labour Party — later to become the Independent Labour Party and then the CCF. The idea of the general strike seemed to have been in the air. Don’t forget that not too many months before, some key people on the Strike Committee had attended the OBU conference in Calgary and the general strike was a weapon much favoured by the OBU. Then there was the attitude of business. They were first generation businessmen. I call them Ontario bushmen. Most of them had been farmers. They felt paternalistic to the workers. “I don’t want a bunch of workers telling me how to run my plant,” was a remark commonly heard. On the other hand the union leaders had come from industrial England. They had years of bitter strike experience. They were not novices

---- Canadian Dimension/Winnipeg----

The strike was smashed by a combination of government troops and a “Citizens committee.” Many strike leaders were arrested and tried for subversion. A number of immigrants were deported. The OBU was shattered as an all-industry federation as court after court ruled that the TLC “internationals” owned the contracts in the majority of organized locals, though the OBU continued to hold the Lumber Workers Industrial Union, some mine unions, the Winnipeg streetcar workers, and Saskatoon telephone operators.

After a series of disastrous strikes by its 23,000 members, the LWIU collapsed in 1921. Stepping into the breach, the newly founded Workers Party — later the Communist Party-- declared war on the OBU’s industrial unionism and succeeded in directing it into “geographical unionism,” following the dictate of Lenin’s 3rd International union strategy, which was to break up dual or independent unions and bring them into locals affiliated with the AFL, which the Communists hoped to capture from within. By the mid-twenties, the Communist TUEL had captured about a third of the important union positions in the AFL, but were purged overnight by a counter-coup of the Gompers faction.

The Communists were aided in the move for geographical unionism by some syndicalists, especially in Edmonton, who had moved toward that defensive concept in the period of the OBU”s decline. In BC, the Communists managed to get many of the lumberworkers “east of the hump’ into the AFL Carpenters union.

AT the same time, however, the IWW was reorganizing in Canada. In 1916, virtually extinct in the rest of the country, the IWW had moved from the Minnesota iron fields in the Mesaba Range northward into Ontario and had gained a large following in the northern woods, especially among Finnish Lumber workers. After the orders in council outlawing the IWW in 1918, organizers went underground. In 1919 the Ontario lumber workers joined the OBU, but Wobbly delegates continued to bootleg union supplies to the minority who wanted to keep their IWW membership books as well, as well as did OBU-IWW delegates in B.C. On April 2, 1919 the ban on the IWW was lifted. Two branches were formed in Toronto and Kitchener.

Organizing in the 20’s

An exchange of union cards was arranged between the IWW and the OBU locals still functioning in the lumber fields, seaports and Great Lakes. This exchange was a system in which separate unions recognized as valid the union cards of workers transferring into their own jurisdiction from that of the other union and required no initiation fee. an OBU an d IWW delegate travelled together to the 1921 Red International of Labour Unions conference in Moscow. The obu delegate, Gordon Cascaden, was denied a vote because he represented the “anarchist wing “of the OBU.

The IWW delegate, who originally supported ties the RILU, argued against affiliation on his return.... Among the ultimatums RILU attempted to impose... was that the IWW affiliate the virtually defunct Lumber Workers Industrial Union/OBU in Western Canada, already permeated by Communists.

Following the collapse that year of the LWIU, the IWW, OBU and the Communists all made bids for the former members. Some sections joined the Communist Red International (a way station to the AFL Carpenters) others made an abortive attempt to revive the LWIU, which still had support in the east. The remainder joined IWW. largest section being the Vancouver LWIU branch, which had revolted when LWIU joined the Communists. By 1923 IWW had three branches with job control in Canada: Lumberworkers IU 120 and Marine Transport Workers IU 510 in Vancouver and an LWIU branch in Cranbrook BC for a total of 5,600 members.

Organizing in the 20’s was extremely difficult. The defeat of the Winnipeg General Strike and the depression of the early part of the decade weakened unions everywhere. During 1921 and 1922 the usual cause of strikes was resistance to wage reductions. Most such disputes were won by the employers. A large number of strikes were smashed by scabs drawn from a vast pool of new workers migrating from the farms to the cities.

Nonetheless, 1924 marked a peak year for the IWW in Canada. This was in direct contra distinction to the US IWW, which underwent a disastrous split over the questions of decentralization and amnesty for IWW prisoners in federal prisons (the decentralists demanded total autonomy of all industrial unions, with no central clearing house or headquarters dues. The anti-amnesty faction called for a boycott on any federal amnesty., instead relying on class struggle to win the release of imprisoned Wobblies).

The split in the US IWW puzzled the Canadian membership, who decided to support the Constitutional IWW in Chicago instead of the decentralist Emergency Program IWW in the West — the latter lasted for ten years; the resulting raids and counter-raids destroyed IWW power in the western lumber fields and caused a temporary membership drop nationwide.

In Northern Ontario the Canadian Lumber Workers (the OBU remnant of the LWIU) voted in 1924 to bolt the geographically based OBU and join the IWW. The same referendum elected a Finnish lumberworker, Nick Vita, as secretary. Vita had joined the IWW in 1917 and secretly carried an IWW red card through the War Measures Act and his years in the OBU. In 1919 he had attended the IWW Work People’s College and then Ferris Institute, a business college in Michigan, after a meagre three months of school before adulthood.

Vita’s first chore as secretary was to issue 8,000 IWW union cards. Branches were set up in Sudbury — Ontario head office — and Port Arthur. Vita began organizing railroad workers and miners in Timmins and Sudbury districts, but a brief success of 3,000 recruits soon faded. That same year an Agricultural Workers Organization IU 110, was formed in Calgary. Four IWW organizers were arrested on charges of vagrancy. IWW headquarters in Chicago provided legal fees and three of the cases the charges were quashed. On January 1, 1924, after the firing of an IWW member of the Cranbrook BC branch IWW Lumber Workers IU120 struck the lumber owners, calling for an 8 hour day with blankets supplied, minimum wage of $4 per day, release of all class war prisoners, no discrimination against IWW members and no censuring of IWW literature. After three weeks the camp operators tried to bring in scabs from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Pickets severely curtailed the scabbing and on February 26 the operators served an injunction on the officers and members of the IWW to restrain the strikers from picketing. The seven companies asked for $105,340.41 in damages. At a mass meeting March 2, strikers voted to “take the strike back on the job.” As the injunction came up for review on June 24, the Mountain Lumbermen’s Association paid to the IWW $2,450 to settle out of court.

In 1925 the LWIU branch disappeared from Cranbrook — a not unfamiliar event in the IWW, which still refused to sign binding contracts with employers, and often dwindled away as an organization after specific demands had been won. A new Agricultural Workers branch was formed in Winnipeg, bringing the IWW a total of 6 branches in Canada for a membership of 10,000 — the same as in 1910.

Included was a coal miners branch in Wayne Alberta which fought that year the IWW’s first large strike in coal — a bitter and losing affair. Fighting a mandatory dues check off to the United Mine Workers, which did not represent them, the miners originally joined the OBU, but along with the Ontario lumberworkers switched to the IWW in 1924. The mine company offered a 10% wage increase if they agreed to accept the UMWA. Considering it a bribe, the miners refused and struck, unsuccessfully.

The Winnipeg AWO folded in 1926, as did the Alberta Coal Miners IU branch, but a new General Recruiting Union branch was formed in Port Arthur, in addition to the lumberworkers for a total of 4,600 members in Canada. Seven branches carried 4,400 members through 1927–28 — the IWW General Convention in Chicago urged a joint IWW/OBU convention, which did not materialize — in 1929 the Calgary GRU disappeared, bringing membership down to 3,975.

The IWW Lumber Workers Industrial Union 120, came under competition in 1928 from the refurbished Lumber Workers Industrial Union of Canada, organized by the Communists following the failure of their AFL take-over bid, and in tune with Stalin’s new 1928–34 “left turn” period which demanded independent Communist unions. Communist organizers who had left for BC in the early 20’s to bring carpenters and lumberworkers there into the AFL now returned home to build dual unions under the aegis of Workers Unity League. A number of meagre contracts were obtained from small operators in the northern Ontario woods, for whom the largely Finnish lumberjacks worked. IWW branches asked that union policy be changed to allow them to sign contracts as well, but the 1932 General Convention again voted against allowing binding contracts, and a majority of Ontario lumber workers ended in communist controlled unions. Ironically, it was only a few years later that the US IWW was signing contracts and running in federal NLRB elections.

Changes in the 30’s

The early 30s were a watershed era in the history of North American labor. Initially stunned by the vicious poverty and unemployment caused by the Capitalist breakdown in 1929–31, the working class by 1933–34 had gained the offensive in a massive wildcat strike wave that swept the continent. The period saw an upsurge in IWW activity in Canada, a phenomenon applicable also to the OBU, which even expanded organizing into the New England and opened a hall in San Francisco, and the Canadian Communist Workers Unity League, which was especially strong among textile workers, needle trades, mine and mill workers, and seamen’s unions.

Radical influence was also strong in the US mass strike period, represented by the IWW: longshore, maritime, lumber, construction, mining, metal trades, early auto organizing, and unemployed — the Socialist Party: needle trades, unemployed, later auto — the Communist Trade Union Unity League: mine and steel, textile, furriers, longshore and seamen, teachers, unemployed, veterans, Blacks

---- Trotskyists: Minneapolis Teamsters — and the Musteite CPLA/American Workers Party: Toledo Auto-Lite strike, unemployed.

By 1930, the Sudbury IWW LWIU folded, but a new Lumber workers branch formed in Sault Ste. Marie, giving the union 3,741 members in Canada. Canadian delegates met in Port Arthur September 20, 1931, and voted to form a Canadian administration, primarily to overcome customs problems over supplies sent from Chicago and to coordinate specifically Canadian industrial activity. The move was submitted for consideration at the IWW Convention in Chicago November 8–19, 1931, where it was referred to a general membership referendum and ratified. The Canadian administration was to be autonomous but ultimately responsible to the General Administration and paying a monthly 1/2 cent per capita for international organizing costs.

IWW unemployment agitation generated a number of arrests, especially one big crackdown by Royal Mounted Police at Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Ritchie’s Dairy in Toronto was unionized IWW for a time, and a fisher’s branch formed in McDiarmid, Ontario.

Organizing was undertaken in the Maritimes but did not sustain itself. In 1935 the IWW had 12 branches in Canada with 4,200 members: 2 branches in Vancouver-- Lumber workers and General Recruiting Union — General Membership Branches in Sointula, BC, Calgary, Toronto, Sudbury; lumber workers in Fort Francis, Nipigon, Sault Ste. Marie, and Port Arthur Ontario; a General Recruiting Union in Port Arthur; and a Metal Mine Workers branch in Timmins, Ontario.

The working class rebellion of the mid thirties culminated in a series of sit down strikes — using the tactics developed a few years earlier in the auto plants by the IWW, including the little cards passed hand to hand, reading: “Sit down and watch your pay go up.” — which established the Congress of Industrial Organizations/CIO. The CIO was a reformist semi- industrial movement launched by the United Mine Workers which succeeded where the revolutionary industrial unions had failed. Its success was due primarily to its willingness to collectively bargain with employers for modest wage and conditions changes and then to enforce submission to the contract on any subsequent rank and file rebellion. Both the Roosevelt administration and a sector of “far-seeing” Capitalists saw in this an opportunity to corral the strike wave into the bounds of a lightly reformed capitalist system. (Slower to move, the Canadian ruling class followed suit only toward the end of the Second World War.)

Hundreds of unauthorized work stoppages were suppressed by CIO chieftains. At one point CIO head and leader of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, threatened to dispatch “flying squads of strong-arm men” to bring auto wildcatters into line.

The CIO drive coincided with a far reaching right turn by Stalin (and by iron-fisted extension, the then monolithic world communist movement, sans Trotskyites of course). The Workers Unity League was jettisoned by the Canadian Communists; its independent unions were brought into the AFL or CIO or sabotaged. Communist militants flocked into the CIO organizing committees and assiduously worked themselves into key positions, ranging from stewards to actual union presidents. The CIO ventures were highly successful, initially in the US and after WWII in Canada.

The Communists captured the leadership of ten industrial unions, including the United Electrical Workers, the Mine Mill & Smelter Unions, the Fur and Leather Workers, the Canadian Seamens Union and United Fishermen, and the B.C. Ship builders Union. They also become strong in the International Woodworkers, especially in BC, the AFL International Longshoremen, and others.

In the broader Canadian union movement, a number of things were happening. In 1921 TLC expelled the Cdn. Brotherhood of Railway Employees in favour of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks from the USA. In 1927, the CBRE, the OBU remnant, and the old CFL joined together to form the All Canadian Congress of Labour. The CFL had been the stillborn result of the merger of the Knights of Labour and some national unions in 1903, after their expulsion from AFL-dominated TLC.

First called the National Trades and Labour Council, in 1908 it became the Cdn. Federation of Labour, a big name for so little, and now in 1927 it dissolved into the ACC of L. The All-Canadian Congress grew, in its own reactionary way; in the early 30s the OBU supported the red-baiting bureaucracy, only to find itself later ousted. In 1937 the ACCL chiefs aided the anti-union Ontario Premier Hepburn in his attack on the AFL, CIO, and Communists — all seen as “American.”

In 1938, however, the TLC under AFL pressure expelled the CIO unions in Canada and, in a complete flip-flop, the CIO units joined the ACCL in 1940 to form the Canadian Congress of Labour. Considering that many of the CIO organizers were Communists, and all the CIO unions internationals from the USA, it was quite a marriage of convenience. In 1943 the CCL came out in support of the social-democratic Cooperative Commonwealth (now the New Democratic Party)-- although the Communists were supporting the Liberal Party.

After WWII the CCL grew closer to the TLC, especially as both were expelling communists en masse. Finally in 1956 the CCL and TLC merged to form the Canadian Labour Congress. Another independent union body organizing during this period was the Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Labour in Quebec, established in 1921, now the syndicalist CNTU.

The success of a moderate semi-industrial unionism, temporarily fringed with a radical hue, greatly hampered the revolutionary industrial unionism of the IWW. Another factor was the extremely conservatizing influence of the Second World War — ostensibly an anti-fascist crusade — with its no-strike pledges, for which the Communists were the strongest backers in the interests of the Soviet Fatherland — even to the point of denouncing all strikers, such as the United Mine Workers, as “fascist agents.”

Even so, the IWW in the USA was able to stabilize a number of solid job units, particularly metal shops in Cleveland area, and by fighting the no-strike pledge expanded general membership on the docks and construction camps. In 1946 the IWW numbered 20,000 members.

IWW agitation continued strong in Canada until 1939, especially in northern Ontario, but Canada’s entry as British ally into the war and the resulting mass conscription and War Measures Act, caught the union without a job-control base. Moreover, in-fighting with the Communists had become particularly vicious. Sudbury was being organized by the Communist controlled Mine Mill & Smelters to the point that J. Edgar Hoover later called it the “red base of North America.”

Wobbly units in Sudbury and Port Arthur were mixed membership branches of scattered lumbermen, miners and labourers. During the Spanish Civil War 1936–39, the IWW in Ontario actively recruited for the anarcho-syndicalist CNT union militia in Spain, in direct challenge to the Communist sponsored Mac-Pap International Brigade. A number of Canadian Wobs were killed in Spain — some possibly shot by Stalinist NKVD agents. Not only weapons and ammunition but even medical supplies were denied the CNT by the Communist-controlled government of Madrid. Violent altercations erupted at northern Ontario rallies for the communist doctor Norman Bethune, soon to quit Spain for Mao’s partisans in China, when Wobblies openly denounced Communist perfidy.

World War II

In Toronto where the IWW Canadian Administration headquarters was temporarily moved, Wobblies gave physical support to the soap boxing efforts of anarchists from the Italian, Jewish and Russian communities. Pitched street battles often occurred at Spanish CNT support rallies, and IWW secretaries McPhee and Godin, both former lumberjacks, were noted for their quick despatch of Young Communist goon squads.

But the War halted IWW organizing. A number of young Wobs were immediately inducted into the Armed Forces. At war’s end re-growth was too slow. In 1949 membership in Canada stood at 2,100 grouped in six branches; two in Port Arthur and one each in Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie, Calgary and Toronto.

Meanwhile the government in the USA was attempting to destroy the IWW once and for all. After refusing to sign the Taft-Hartley anti-red clause, the IWW was denied the certification services of the National Labor Relations Board. In 1949 the IWW was placed on the Attorney General’s list, which came replete with mailing curtailments, refusal to members of government jobs, loans or housing, and FBI harassment of individual members, especially at their place of employment. To cap it off, the IWW was slapped with a “corporate income tax”, the only union in North America to be so taxed. As a culminative consequence the IWW lost its last shops, including all the IU440 Metal shops in Cleveland.

During the same period the AFL and CIO began a mass purge of Communists in its ranks, an easy task, so riddled was the Communist party with opportunism and cowardice. Completed quickly in the US, the expulsions were slower and less thorough in Canada, lasting beyond 1955. Those unions the reactionaries could not purge they expelled and then raided. The Communists in Canada managed to hold only the United Electrical Workers, the remnant of Mine & Mill, and the United Fishermen in BC.

The Canadian IWW retained branches in only Vancouver, Port Arthur and Calgary by 1950- 51. The following year the Canadian Administration in Port Arthur folded and membership reverted to the services of the Chicago office. By comparison, the OBU-- by now a mild trade grouping in Winnipeg — continued until 1955–56 with 34 locals and 12,280 members at which time it merged with the CLC.

The Dark 50’s

The Cold War snuffed out the Canadian, British and Australian administrations of the IWW. It remained for the General and Scandinavian administrations to hold together scattered Wobs in Canada, USA, Britain, Sweden, and Australia. Through the 1950s the IWW still exerted some power on the docks and ships with IU510 branches in San Francisco, Houston and Stockholm. But with the early sixties, the IWW was near extinction.

Yet, the IWW survived. One, in the courage and dedication of old-timers who kept the structure going. Two, with the slow influx of young workers of a casual labour hue. In the mid-60s, the IWW organized a restaurant job branch in San Francisco, only to be raided by the Waiters & Waitresses Union. In 1964 the IWW led a blueberry harvest strike in Minnesota. With the Vietnam War the IWW began taking in young workers with ties to the campuses. IN 1968 it was decided to sign up students alongside teachers and campus workers into Education Workers IU620. There followed a wild and erratic campus upsurge, two notables being Waterloo U in Ontario and New Westminster BC. The results were nil in themselves, but it got the IWW over the hump and left a fine residue of militants who left campus to find jobs.

The next 5 years spawned some 20-odd industrial drives, including one among construction workers in Vancouver, another among shipbuilders in Malmo, Sweden, and two tough factory strikes in the USA. For the most part unsuccessful, a number had interesting features.

In a Vancouver drive, a construction crew in Gastown was signed IWW — but certification before the Socred-appointed BC Labour Board was denied, the IWW declared not a “trade union under the meaning of the Act.” A subsequent strike fizzled.

Industrial organizing efforts continue. The IWW has picked up a number of newspapers, print shops and print co-ops over the years, a few highly viable and long lived.

The new IWW has its own list of labour martyrs: the San Diego Wobs shot, bombed and arrested during the 1969–71 Free Speech Fight and Criminal Syndicalism frame up trial. Robert Ed Stover, knifed to death in San Quentin Prison, where he was framed on an arms cache charge; and Frank Terraguti, shot to death by Chilean fascists in Santiago during the 1973 coup.

In 1975, the IWW is organizing in Canada, USA, Sweden, Britain, Guam, New Zealand and Australia.


*see also WHERE THE FRASER RIVER FLOWS, New Star (Canada) 1991*

21. Ableism at the Anarchy Fair

Deleted reason: DELETED pending conversation

Author: Anonymous

Authors: Anonymous

Topics: COVID-19, pandemic, bookfair, ableism, communique

Date: 11/25/2023

Date Published on T@L: 2023-11-28T09:56:22

Source: Retrieved on 2023-11-28 from <>

On November 25th 2023, a small group of disabled trans anti-eugenicists confronted a festival of ableist violence in so called “Portland, Oregon”. This was done against libertarians posing as anarchists whom avoid taking responsibility for the violence they have perpetrated by spreading SARS-CoV-2 and its strains without mitigation. Their violence follows the logic of settlers who unleashed smallpox on the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.

The fake anarchists who organized this festival have published a statement supporting the continuation of the COVID genocide through promoting anti-masking rhetoric in a publication called Anarchy Anarchy Anarchy!. In this newspaper, they wrote that anti-ableists who wheat pasted demands of leftist spaces to require masks are the equivalent of health cops and that mask requirements are “gulag as fuck”. These are in line with common talking points that fascists in this country make in support of the COVID genocide, claiming that mask and vaccine mandates are “authoritarian” even though they directly mitigate ableist violence. The millions dead and disabled from COVID show that refusing to mask is the real authoritarianism, because it makes space lethally inaccessible for disabled people and is killing & disabling marginalized people in mass unlike mask requirements.

This narrative also obscures the true role of the police as shock troopers for reproducing all systems of oppression. It ignores how police forces across the country & globally are responsible for pushing anti-masking practices & COVID denial in their own ranks. This violence functions as a further enforcement of genocide through their systemic power, such as exposing prisoners to COVID while withholding masks, tests & vaccines, leaving them to long term disabilities and in worst cases, death.

Our original intentions as a group were to go in, burn their ableist newspapers, make our statement at the firepit and leave, without creating bodily harm or fighting anyone. Yet upon collecting the materials we were dog piled, beaten and swung at. This forced us to respond in self defense, resulting in at least two anti-maskers getting directly damaged by our attacks. The way these reactionaries resorted to bashing the disabled trans women whom confronted their anti-masking rhetoric does not compare to the lethal violence of their willing spread of COVID. Yet we found it hypocritical that the TERFs who invaded town on 11/19/2023 and many local fascists were beaten less hard than what disabled trans women received for calling out ableism in this “anarchist” space, as unfortunately TERFs and local fascist rarely are inflicted the brutal retaliation they deserve here. We believe this intense reaction against vocal disabled trans people reveal the fascist taint in these “anarchist” anti-maskers, who rarely enact that level of violence onto other right wingers. We urge people to deplatform their crypto-fascist newspaper and these ableist talking points everywhere.

We also call for people to create space to grieve the ongoing losses & deaths from the COVID genocide, as state power & its organizational control continue to push its colonial legacy from our collective memory. From AIDS activists worldwide, to the antifascists who had fought against Pinochet, disrupting public spaces to create living sites of greiving against the ongoing violence can be a powerful act to end the silence which both obscures these deaths & benefits from their erasure. We believe that it is legitimate for people to force events like anarchy fair to be locations of grieving, so the violence is not ignored and the proud perpetrators are revealed.

We are proud of resisting the COVID genocide, because to remain passive in the face of violence, or to spend our time & efforts convincing committed ableists to stop the violence, only perpetuates the reproduction of ableism. We will fight until all disabled people are liberated from the domination of ableism, and until the grip of white supremacy is destroyed by the fury of anti-colonial rebellion! We know that only in direct conflict will hierarchy begin to crumble.

For the destruction of all oppression! Long live the struggle for the liberation of disabled people!


22. Chinese Anarchism for the 21th Century

Deleted reason: pending discussion

Subtitle: The case for unique principles and ideology for the development of a Chinese identity within anarchist politics and the wider socio-political sphere

Author: Li Meiyi

Topics: Chinese Anarchism, 21st century

Date: March 10, 2018

Source: Retrieved on 15th April 2021 from


Chinese people have had a long history of civilisation and culture, dating back thousands of years. With the legacy of European colonialism left on the Chinese people which continues to the 21st century, the need for a uniquely Chinese-influenced approach to anarchism must be pioneered so that anarchism will preserve the freedom of the Chinese people and the preservation of our heritage. This can be achieved through an anarchist adaptation of Sun Yat-sen’s three principles of the people as a structure for the forming of a Chinese anti-colonialist and anti-racist movement, characterised and unified by a Chinese identity. Solidarity and mutual aid must be promoted with other movements of other ethnic groups so that we may fully achieve the implementation of the principles. Without our movement and identity, we risk losing everything, besides race, that makes us Chinese and distinct from all other ethnic groups, both in our modern society and in any envisioned anarchist future.


Chinese anarchism has had its peak influence during the late Qing dynasty/early republic period (Yu and Scalapino, 1961). Leading up to the 21st century, the public and obvious influence of Chinese anarchism has declined, being forced to become an underground movement in the present day (Dickens, 2010). It is from my personal experience that Chinese anarchism has not made its impact on Chinese populations in western societies, which has impacted the manner in which Chinese individuals respond to xenophobia and racism, making this a significant issue to be considered by Chinese populations in understanding our place in the world and our potential power as a socio-political movement.

In this essay, a case will be presented as to how and why Chinese anarchism is to be promoted as an influence and guidance on how Chinese populations in western nations and societies can develop presence and a political vehicle. Intersectionality will be discussed, with the role that Chinese activists should play in supporting and showing solidarity to other social movements using the political vehicle for revolution as a tool for support.

Throughout this essay, the traditional form of writing will be used for the Chinese translations of different terms, with the Pinyin pronunciation included alongside. This will only apply to the first use of terminology; later uses of the same terminology will not include translations or Pinyin. Dr. Sun Yat-sen will be referenced as “Dr. Sun Yat-sen” followed by his Chinese name and Pinyin pronunciation. As with the terminology, this will only apply to when his name is first referred to in the essay.

Part 1: Three Principles of the People (三民主義, Sān Mín Zhǔ Yì)

The three principles of the people is a political philosophy which has been developed by Dr. Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙, Sūn Yì Xiān) to provide a framework for establishing a Chinese republic to replace the imperial government of the Qing dynasty (清朝, Qīng cháo). These three principles are listed at the sub-headings below for this part, with the details of the definitions and applications of each principle to the subject of this dissertation discussed.

In a brief summary of the three principles, I will define them each with a few sentences here.

Nationalism: Chinese culture has had a tradition of kinship and filial piety (孝, xiào) due to religious influences such as Confucianism (儒家, rú jiā) (Teon, 2016) but not of national identity, which has led to China being a fractured nation with divided people (Sun, n.d.). Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s vision of a nationalist China meant that all ethnicities living in China will be unified under a common identity to be strengthened against western and Japanese nationalism so that China can combat the imperialist ambitions of such nations (Sun, n.d.).

Democracy: Sun Yat-sen’s vision of democracy is not completely different to the republican system of government of the west. However, a key difference is that while in the west, democracy is associated with the liberty of individuals, while Sun Yat-sen believed in the collective freedom of the liberty of the nation (Linebarger, 2012). While this may seem paradoxical, it is not necessarily so, as the lack of organised and disciplined people leads to a weak nation that is easily oppressed. Following where this justification leads, it would appear that Sun Yat-sen believed that this organisation and discipline should come about through a governing leadership which is made up of elected individuals by the people, with democracy being the expression of the Chinese people’s power as a nation (Linebarger, 2012).

People’s livelihood: the meaning and definition of this principle is controversial and highly disputed. The interpretation provided by Linebarger (2012) explains that Sun Yat-sen believed that there are three doctrines to people’s livelihood: implementation of nationalist democracy, national enrichment and economic justice. For the doctrine of implementation of nationalist democracy, people’s livelihood is believed to be necessary for the Chinese people to be able to gather the material strength to resist imperialist oppression and allow the operation of the other two principles (Linebarger, 2012). The doctrines of national enrichment and economic justice lead to potential conclusions being drawn that Sun Yat-sen’s principle of people’s livelihood is a socialist principle (or is applicable as a socialist principle), addressing the need of the Chinese people to become economically enriched to escape poverty and for economic justice to be achieved through the fair distribution of property and wealth (Linebarger, 2012).

Nationalism (民族主義, Mín Zú Zhǔ Yì)

In western interpretations of nationalism, it would appear that it is contradictory and impossible to both support nationalism and anarchism together. However, I believe nationalism in the form of Sun Yat-sen’s principle can be applicable as being able to promote the liberty of Chinese people in western nations and societies.

If we look at the anti-racism movements of other ethnic groups, we can see that they are unified by a cause to preserve their unique identity and to promote pride so that they will not be seen as inferior to the identity of the white race or western civilisation. This can be found in the unity of the Black Panther Party (while they were Marxists and not anarchists, their pride in their black ethnicity and effort to protect their ethnicity and culture from assimilation and racism provides lessons to anarchists of colour, specifically Chinese anarchists for the purposes of this essay) as their organisation gave black people a unified cause (Baggins, 2002).

I must add that in my own personal view, I do not believe that Chinese people in the west face the same issues that black people, during the time period in which the Black Panthers existed, faced. This is not a call for Chinese people to unify in an identity to compete with other ethnic groups for attention. As with all groups and identities, we all have our own distinct issues we will be dealing with, so we cannot compare ourselves against other ethnic groups or claim that we have the same needs. Issues that are specifically Chinese are what needs to be addressed.

Keeping in line with anarchist values, the “Chinese identity” which is intended to unify Chinese people against racism and assimilation is a voluntary identity to be adopted. Chinese people should not be coerced into identifying themselves with the nationalist values. While this is to avoid authoritarianism, this is also because of the question of who is Chinese. The geographical area of China is made up of many different ethnic groups, some of which identify themselves as Chinese (such as the Manchu people) and some of which see themselves as distinct from the Chinese identity (such as the Tibetan people). Coercion into reviving and maintaining Chinese culture and values is not easy when drawing lines between Chinese and non-Chinese people is blurred. Doing so would risk us perpetrating the very issue we are fighting against on other ethnic groups: assimilation.

While the question of who is Chinese can be defined as people belonging to the Han Chinese ethnic group, this is also not a sufficient solution. The Manchu people are not Han Chinese, however there are Manchu people who identify themselves as Chinese. In excluding ethnic groups such as the Manchu people from the Chinese identity, we are closing off people who have had lived experiences, history and culture as Chinese people on the basis that their racial heritage does not match. This can only lead to the conclusion that nationalism must be non-ethnic and take the form of an identity which is voluntarily associated with.

This logic may cause some to come to conclusions that white Caucasians, who have generations of ancestry having settled in the geographical region of China and adopted all the culture, language and history to the point that they are almost identical to Han Chinese people in social background, will also be able to associate themselves with the Chinese identity in the same way as the Manchu people. I will not argue against this, however it does highlight the need to make a distinct separation between the Chinese identity and the racial identity of people. While white Caucasians can identify themselves with the Chinese identity, this is only in the sense of the non-ethnic national identity and not racial identity. As a result, this means that white people can both associate with the Chinese identity while also experiencing the same white privileges that white Caucasians from western regions experience. This distinction must be made clear so that the limitations of speaking as Chinese people that white Caucasians have are clear.

Now that the boundaries and limits of who the Chinese identity applies to have been clarified, the defining principles of the Chinese identity will be explained. Chinese nationalism is a revival of the traditional cultures, languages and history that define us as a distinct people from others. While Chinese people have always had a significant variety of culture, religion or beliefs and languages, they can all be associated under the label of Chinese. Chinese nationalism should aim to promote all these on the same level in relation to each other (Mandarin Chinese is the dominant language, with lesser known languages arguably dying out and losing significance) (Blanchard, 2010) and to foreign equivalents, as opposed to viewing our identity as outdated and opting to assimilate into the values of western civilisation.

It must be made clear that nationalism in this context does not mean uncritical approval and loyalty to anything that is historically and culturally Chinese. If we are to have an identity to be proud of and empowering by nature, it must be critically studied by all of us as Chinese people. This includes the traditional practice of foot binding, which has now been ended (Mills, 2015). If we truly are to use our identity for anti-oppression purposes, care must be taken to ensure that it does not enable or actively encourage oppressive behaviour of others.

It may be argued that if we allow such significant diversity within what it means to be Chinese, it will reduce the meaning. Not so, as despite the huge diversity, there is always a common history or root culture which we all have developed from. Similar diversity already exists in other nations (Raento and Husso, 2002) without the meaning of their nationality being lost.

Democracy (民權主義, Mín Quán Zhǔ Yì)

Sun Yat-sen’s ideas surrounding democracy had often linked it with Chinese cultural values so that the ideology did not become a copy of western ideology (Linebarger, 2012). This lesson can be taken and applied to anarchism, with Chinese people looking into the history and culture to adapt to anarchism. One example of this is the application of Daoism (道教, dào jiào) to provide a framework for anarchist politics (Josh, 2005).

In regard to Sun Yat-sen’s vision of a republic, I share the same views as the Paris Group as written in their publication, New Century (新世紀, xīn shì jì): “Rather than merely opposing the Manchu Court, was it not better to oppose monarchy, Manchu or Han?” (Yu and Scalapino, 1961). It is highly likely that within a republic, decisions will be made which will unfairly advantage certain ethnic groups over others, most likely the Han Chinese majority. This is where I disagree with Sun Yat-sen’s idea of the liberty of the nation. It will likely not be the people’s will enacted through the state but rather the Han people’s will which is enacted.

The answer to this issue is to take the next step further from democracy: anarchism. By ensuring that individual liberty is achieved, collective liberty can be strengthened by ensuring that all individuals voluntarily participate in the collective effort so that unwilling individuals are not coerced into the collective decisions, which prevents Han Chinese majority of any organised group from oppressing minority ethnic groups that may consider themselves Chinese. This will fulfil nationalism by allowing all Chinese groups to have the full autonomy to promote their cultures, languages and history, so that the Chinese identity may prosper into a rich and diverse identity which will stand strong against assimilationist efforts of western civilisation.

Only through these efforts will the fullest form of individual and collective liberty be achieved.

As there are conflicting ideologies within anarchism, I will not go into further detail on the method of achieving and organising an anarchist society. While that is a different debate, it will still be necessary to be had in order for groups to agree on what path will best achieve the goals set out in this essay.

People’s Livelihood (民生主義, Mín Shēng Zhǔ Yì)

The third principle has its importance as being part of the structure with the other two in supporting each other. The socialist values of people’s livelihood mean that the anarchist ideology promoted in the principle of democracy needs to be justifiably socialist, in order to provide all ethnic groups with the means to support themselves as individuals and collective organisations in order to support the first principle of nationalism.

This means that people’s livelihood has it’s importance in supporting anti-colonialism and anti-racism through provision of the material means of preserving culture, as well as ensuring that the material means for physical survival are present. This is what makes the socialist ideology in people’s livelihood distinct from the socialism of western theorists: it is a necessary requirement for anti-racism.

Within the context of the current socio-economic situation in China, people’s livelihood should require the redistribution of ownership of wealth and the means of production from the political and economical elite of China to the wider population and the establishment of public land in order to allow minority ethnic groups to freely harvest and use resources found in areas inhabited by the ethnic groups. This includes the return of Tibetan land and resources to be publicly owned by the people of Tibet.

In the west, this principle may have different applications. The ownership of means of production and wealth by westerners should be distributed to the rightful owners (with “rightful” being defined by the agreed anarchist ideology), especially to Chinese people, so that we have the necessary resources and means of production in the west for the preservation of culture and languages. However, it must be recognised that Chinese people are also capable of being part of this very role of unfair ownership, which means that this principle must be fairly applied with understanding and consideration of the needs of others, especially of people from other ethnic groups. This will be addressed further in part 2.

Part 2: Working with Other Ethnic Groups

As pointed out throughout the adaptation of the three principles of the people to anarchism, Chinese people must self-strengthen in order to be able to preserve our identity against colonialism and racism. However, we must recognise that we are not the only ethnic group that face this struggle. Solidarity and mutual aid with the efforts of other ethnic groups in anti-racism must be promoted above competition.

A starting point for promoting solidarity is recognising our own shortcomings when it comes to relations with other ethnic groups. While we may not individually support racism against other ethnic groups, we must recognise that as we participate in western society, we are also prone to enabling and actively participating in racism against others. Even outside of western societies, we must recognise that it is not impossible for us to enable or actively participate in racism. Our own experiences with dealing with the issue do not prevent us from also allowing it or causing it to be imposed on others. This can be seen in the CCTV Spring Festival Gala of 2018, which featured a Chinese actress in blackface to portray the African people (BBC, 2018).

Using our political movements which we will build using the structure of the three principles, we must act as representatives of our identity and use that to provide public support of other ethnic groups and their anti-racism efforts. We must support other movements such as Black Lives Matter as Chinese people for two reasons: to publicly distinguish ourselves from white westerners to have recognition and fulfil the first principle of nationalism, and also to ensure that the push for social change is applied to all, not just Chinese people. If we rise up without bringing non-Chinese ethnic, groups along with us, we have done nothing more than joined the ranks of white westerners and will have not achieved enough to dismantle racist oppression. This is important in recognising that we cannot truly be anarchists or anti-racism if we participate and support concepts that use racist oppression (Johnson, 2008).

We must recognise the differences in issues that we face with racism compared to other ethnic groups. We cannot copy the same approaches and methods that other groups use to combat racism as they may not be practically applicable and at worst, a waste of resources and effort that could be better spent on others. Unless innocent Chinese people are statistically murdered by western police officers at a significant level to judge as a significant racism issue, we must not attempt to compete with Black Lives Matter for attention and space with our own signs saying “Asian Lives Matter.”

Part 3: Conclusion

Uniquely Chinese ideology, culture and history can strengthen our resolve to build and maintain anarchism in a world in which anarchism appears to be dominated by western ideologies. The existence of this movement and identity is essential to preventing the loss of our culture and history before and after achievement of anarchism. We must recognise that even in the absence of coercive institutions that make up racist oppression, colonialist values can still harm the Chinese identity through other socio-economic factors.

Reference List

Baggins, B. (2002). History of the Black Panther Party. Available: Last accessed: 08/03/2018

BBC. (2018). Lunar New Year: Chinese TV gala includes ‘racist blackface’ sketch. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

Blanchard, B. (2010). China’s minority languages face threat of extinction. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

Dickens, P. (2010). Anarchism, ethnicity and culture: the Oriental anarch. Available: Last accessed: 07/03/2018

Josh. (2005). Anarchism and Taoism. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

Johnson, C. (2008). Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

Linebarger, P. (2012). The Political Doctrines of Sun Yat-sen. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

Mills, J. (2015). The last women in China with bound feet: ‘They thought it would give them a better life’. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

Raento, P. and Husso, K. (2002). Cultural diversity in Finland. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

Sun, Y. (n.d.). San Min Chu I: The Three Principles of the People. Available: Last accessed: 08/03/2018

Teon, A. (2016). Filial Piety (孝) in Chinese Culture. Available: Last accessed: 08/03/2018

Yu, G. and Scalapino, R. (1961). The Chinese Anarchist Movement. Available: Last accessed: 09/03/2018

23. Capitalist Education and Learned Helplessness

Subtitle: Shaun Riley on learned helplessness in relation to capitalist education

Author: Shaun Riley

Topics: education, revolution

Date: August 2013

Date Published on T@L: 2024-05-16T20:48:17.139Z

Source: Freedom News, Vol 74, August 2013, Page 7. <>

Learned helplessness occurs when an animal or non-human animal is repeatedly exposed to an aversive stimulus that cannot be escaped. Consequently, the animal will stop attempting to avoid the stimulus and behave as though he or she is helpless to avoid or change the situation, even when these opportunities are present. This behaviour can lead to effects on emotional health, such as depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation.

Inherent in the capitalist education system is the perceived, unquestionable authority of the instructor over the pupil. It is within this hierarchical relationship that the student runs the risk of acquiring learned helplessness. This outcome is to be expected within an education system that holds as its objective the moulding of young, free, creative minds, into subservient, spiritless masses intended to serve the ‘workforce’.

From early on, the student recognises the futility of trying to assert his or her will against the rule of the instructor, as in most cases it will continue to be denied. It is from this constant denial of individual or collective (such as the consensus of students in a classroom setting) autonomy that the student or students will develop a defeatist mindset, i.e. they will begin to believe they will inevitably be defeated by the ‘superiors’ despite any efforts they might take to promote their own interests. Therefore, the student will often subordinately accept the teacher’s authority, even bearing the most senseless of rules, as well as the consequences for breaking them.

This form of institutionalised conditioning can only be eradicated by a radical social revolution and subsequently an educational revolution, whereby capitalist education is replaced by an anarchist form. It will be then, that one’s will, spirit, and individuality, as well as his or her true human potential can be realised.


24. Think for Yourself, Question Authority

Deleted reason: to the bin for now, pending further review

Author: Arno Ruthofer

Topics: accelerationism, artificial intelligence, chaos, computers, counterculture, cybernetics, death, democracy, drugs, futurism, futurist, Genetic Engineering, Internet, nanotechnology, quantum physics, religion, space, spirituality, technology, transhumanism, Timothy Leary

Date: 1997

Date Published on T@L: 2020-04-14T21:30:07

Source: Retrieved on 14th April 2020 from



“Psychedelic” – coming from the Greek “psyche”(soul) and “delein,” to make manifest, or “deloun,” to show, reveal – was first proposed in 1956 by [Humphry] Osmond [...] to describe the effects of mind-altering drugs like mescaline and LSD. (Peter Stafford)[20]

[...] a psychedelic drug is one which, without causing physical addiction, craving, major psychological disturbances, delirium, disorientation, or amnesia, more or less reliably produces thought, mood, and perceptual changes otherwise rarely experienced except in dreams, contemplative and religious exaltation, flashes of vivid involuntary memory, and acute psychoses. (Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar)[21]


Norbert Wiener, in 1948, invented the term “cybernetics” to describe control [and communication] systems using computers. Since then the prefix cyber is used in connection with robots and computers: cybersex, cyberfeminsim, cyberpunk [...]. (Joanna Buick and Zoran Jevtic)[22]


[William] Gibson invented the word cyberspace in Neuromancer, describing it with these phrases: “A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.” [Gibson’s] dream of literally “plugging in” to a computer via a jack that goes into the back of your head is still science fiction. The trend in the 90s is to try to get a “plugged-in” feeling simply by using very advanced sound and graphics displays. Thus Gibson’s “cyberspace” has permutated into today’s “virtual reality” [...]. (Rudy Rucker, R. U. Sirius, and Queen Mu)[23]

Many people know that Timothy Leary was an advocate of psychedelic drugs, especially LSD, which made him a cultfigure of the hippies. With his famous slogan “Turn on – Tune in – Drop out” Leary encouraged the young generation of the 60s to take psychedelic drugs and question authority. Not so many people know, however, that Leary reemerged in the 1980s as a spokesman of a new global counterculture called the cyberpunks and became one of the most energetic promoters of computers, virtual reality, and the Internet. “No magazine cover story on the [cyberpunk] phenomenon is complete without the septuagenarian Timothy Leary, admonishing readers to “turn on, boot up, jack in” and proclaiming that the “PC is the LSD of the 1990s,” writes cultural critic Mark Dery in Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century (Dery 1996: 22).

In contrast to the hippies of the 60s who were decidedly anti-science and anti-technology, the cyberpunks of the 80s and 90s ecstatically embrace technology. They believe that technology (especially computers and the Internet) can help us to transcend all limits, that it can liberate us from authority and even enables us to transcend space, time, and body. Originally, the term “cyberpunk” was used to describe a subgenre of science fiction. Cyberpunk science fiction is primarily concerned with computers and their interaction with humans. The first and most influential cyberpunk novel is William Gibson’s Neuromancer (Gibson 1984, 1995). In Neuromancer, Gibson describes a world of outlaw computer hackers who are able to link up their brains to computer networks and operate in cyberspace. In the late 80s, Cyberpunk escaped from being a literary genre into cultural reality. Media philosopher R. U. Sirius describes this process as follows:

People started to call themselves cyberpunks, or the media started calling people cyberpunks. [...] The first people to identify themselves as cyberpunks were adolescent computer hackers who related to the street-hardened characters and the worlds created in the books of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, and others. [...In 1988] cyberpunk hit the front page of the New York Times when some young computer kids were arrested for cracking a government computer file. The Times called these kids “cyberpunks.” From there, the performers involved in the high-tech-oriented radical art movement generally known as “Industrial” started to call themselves – or be called — cyberpunks [...]. Finally, cyberpunk has come to be seen as a generic name for a much larger trend more or less describing anyone who relates to the cyberpunk vision” (Rucker 1992: 64).

Leary, who called himself a cyberpunk as well, believed that this cyberpunk vision of a world where all limits are transcended has already become reality. The “new world” that Leary means is cyberspace (virtual reality and – in a broader sense – all digitally mediated space), which he sees as a boundless reality where time, space and body are perceived as meaningless.

The question arises: Why did Leary’s focus shift from psychedelic drugs to computers? At first sight psychedelics and computers seem to have nothing in common. From a (counter-)cultural point of view, they seem to be complete opposites. The hippies, for example, saw psychedelics as an antidote to technology which stereotypes our consciousness and desensitizes our perception. In the 60s, Leary himself was very much against computers. He saw them as devices that would merely increase the dependence of individuals on experts. As Leary put it: “[A]t that time, computers were mainframes that cost millions of dollars and were owned by Bell Telephone company, IBM, CIA, Department of Motor Vehicles – no friends of mine! So I had this prejudice that computers were things that stapled you and punched you and there were these monks, the few experts, who controlled it”(quoted in Rucker 1992: 84).

In the early 80s, however, when thanks to smaller size and cheaper prize computers became accessible to millions of people, Leary changed his attitude towards computers and realized that psychedelic drugs and computers actually have very much in common. He discovered that psychedelic drugs and personal computers “are simply two ways in which individuals have learned to take the power back from the state”(ibid.). Leary argues that both psychedelics and computers can help us to liberate ourselves from authority and “create our own realities.” In the course of his long career as psychologist and counterculture philosopher Leary wrote more than thirty books (several of them more than 400 pages long) in which he offers us very elaborate theories — using concepts from the fields of psychology, neurobiology, ethology, quantum physics, cybernetics, and chaos theory — that explain how we can use psychedelic drugs and computers to escape the “narrow reality tunnels” that authorities force us to live in and create our own individual realities whose limits are determined only by the limits of our imagination.

What are those “narrow reality tunnels” Leary is talking about? According to Leary, we have been programmed by our parents, politicians, priests, and teachers to think and see the world the way they want us to think and see the world. For example, they programmed us to think in terms of dominance and submission so that for us it seems normal that there are a few who have power and create the rules while all the others are submissive, law-abiding citizens. Leary makes us aware that the models of reality the authorities are imposing on us are not reflections of an objective reality; they are just arbitrary constructions. What we accept as objective reality is actually a social fabrication, a construction of our minds, that is, our nervous systems. Only if we are able to control our own nervous systems – which means that we know how our brains operate – would we be able to change the realities we live in. Leary describes his books as “manuals on the use of the human nervous system.” (Leary’s Info-Psychology, for example, is subtitled “A manual on the use of the human nervous system according to the instructions of the manufacturers.”) In his theories, Leary explains how we can use psychedelics and computers to “metaprogram” our “brain-software” (the categories through which we perceive the world, our overall cultural worldview, etc).

According to Leary, the hippies were the first generation in human history that knew how to “control their own nervous systems, change their own realities,” using psychedelic drugs to metaprogram their “bio-computers” (brains). In The Politics of Ecstasy, Leary writes that the hippies started an individual-freedom movement which is new to human history because “it is not based on geography, politics, class, or religion. It has to do not with changes in the political structure, nor in who controls the police, but in the individual mind [italics mine]“(PE 3). According to Leary, the individual-freedom revolution started by the hippies in the 60s was continued in the 80s by young people using cybernetic technology (computers, the Internet, TV, etc) to undermine authoritarian dogmatic social structures and create their own (digital) realities.[24] Leary points out that this freedom movement — which has country by country, continent by continent, liberated much of the world in the last three decades (fall of the Berlin Wall, resignation of the hard-line regime in Czechoslovakia, etc) — would not have been possible without mind-expanding drugs and mind-linking electronic appliances accessible to individuals (cf. ibid.). In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary predicts that psychedelic drugs and computers will help this movement to create a post-political “cyber-society” that is based on individual freedom and Ecstasy — defined by Leary as “the experience of attaining freedom of limitations, self imposed or external”(PE 2). Leary backs his idea of the cyber-society with an interesting interpretation of chaos theory.

In this paper I am going to describe the development of Leary’s theories (how his focus shifted from psychedelics to computers) and discuss the impact Leary had on the psychedelic counterculture of the 60s (the hippies) and the cybernetic counterculture of the 80s and 90s (the cyberpunks and cyber-hippies). I want to compare Leary’s earlier theories, in which he praises LSD as the key to cosmic consciousness and sweeping societal change, to his later theories, in which he praises the computer as a tool of liberation and transcendence. This comparison will help me to show that that the hippies and the cyberpunks – who, at first sight, seem to have nothing in common except the fact that they are both countercultures (i.e., counter to the leading culture) — have much more in common than one would think. I will argue that the cyberpunks and cyber-hippies were strongly influenced by the transcendentalist ideas that prevailed in the 60s counterculture. (Although it is indebted to ideas of recent vintage such as chaos theory, the cyber-hippies’ techno-transcendentalism owes much to the 60s counterculture – specifically, to the ideas of 60s-cult-authors like Leary or Marshall McLuhan.) Another thing we will see when we examine Leary’s theories is that the hippies were not nearly as rural and anti-technological as some cultural critics argue. According to Leary, the hippies and the cyberpunks/cyber-hippies share the same aim (individual freedom, ecstasy); only the technologies the cyberpunks use to reach this aim are different ones.

There are several reasons why I decided to write this rather extensive paper on Leary: First of all, many cultural critics and media philosophers writing about countercultures (e.g., Theodore Roszak, Mark Dery, and Douglas Rushkoff) argue that Leary “exerted a significant influence on the youth culture of the 60s”(Roszak 1995: 164) and portray him as a leading figure of the “cyberdelic” (cybernetic-psychedelic) counterculture of the 90s (cf. Dery 1996: 22, cf. Rushkoff 1995: 49f.). None of them, however, gives a comprehensive overview of Leary’s theories which have influenced thousands of young people who read Leary’s books. I decided to give such an overview because I want to show that Leary has more to offer than a few catchphrases (like “turn on, tune in, drop out”). Furthermore, I think that an overview of Leary’s different theories can be very helpful to discover interesting connections between his early theories, in which he expresses the most important beliefs that prevailed in the apolitical wing of the 60s counterculture, and his later theories, which are a synthesis of the most important beliefs and ideas that prevail in the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s.

Another reason why I decided to write this paper on Leary is that in his theories Leary expresses a worldview that is becoming more and more important in science and philosophy, as well as in everyday life in our postmodern Information Society: the constructivist worldview. An old Talmudic saying perfectly describes this worldview in one single sentence: We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. Paul Watzlawick, a leading exponent of the metatheory known as constructivism, explains this sentence as follows: “[J]ede Wirklichkeit [ist] im unmittelbaren Sinne die Konstruktion derer [...], die diese Wirklichkeit zu entdecken und erforschen glauben. Anders ausgedrückt: Das vermeintlich Gefundene ist ein Erfundenes, dessen Erfinder sich des Aktes seiner Erfindung nicht bewußt ist, sondern sie als Grundlage seines ‘Wissens’ und daher seines Handelns macht” (Watzlawick 1998: 9f.). Constructivists argue that humans impose order on their sensory experience of the outside world, rather than discern order from the world, and they create knowledge rather than discover it (cf. Spivey 1997: 3).

Many constructivists focus their attention on the metaphysical issue of the nature of reality, trying to answer the question to what extent humans can learn about and experience reality, or, put another way, to what extent we create our realities. In general, they point to the role of the observer in any observations that are made of the “world.” The quantum physicists (Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, et al) were the ones who, in the 1920s, introduced constructivist concepts to the world of physics. In contrast to Descartes and Newton who argued that the world is made up of a multitude of separate objects existing independently of the observer, the quantum physicists suggested that the universe is “a network of dynamic relationships that include the human observer and his or her consciousness in an essential way [italics mine]”(Capra 1982: 47). (I will explain this quotation in the chapter “The observer created universe”). Leary was very much influenced by the ideas of Einstein and Heisenberg. In practically all of his books he discusses the philosophical implications of quantum theory. In Chaos & Cyberculture, for example, he offers us a very bold interpretation of quantum theory which he uses to back his idea that computers enable us to create our own realities which, according to Leary, are as real as the so called material reality. However, the method that helped Leary to discover that “reality” is a construction of our minds was not quantum physics but psychedelics. Leary explains: “Since psychedelic drugs expose us to different levels of perception, and experience, use of them is ultimately a philosophic enterprise, compelling us to confront the nature of reality and the nature of our fragile, subjective belief systems. The contrast is what triggers the laughter, the terror. We discover abruptly that we have been programmed all these years, that everything we accepted as reality is just a social fabrication” (FB 33).

Another reason why I decided to write this paper on Leary is that I want to show that Leary was one of the founding fathers of cyberpunk. As early as 1973, Leary predicted that some day the world would be linked through an “electronic nervous system” (the Internet) and that computers could be used to empower the individual (cf. NP 45f.). In this paper, I want to make people aware of the fact that several important figures of the cybermovement (e.g., R. U. Sirius) were strongly influenced by Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory which Leary describes in Neuropolitics (Leary 1977), Exo-Psychology (Leary 1977), and The Intelligence Agents (Leary 1979).

As far as the organization of this paper is concerned, I choose to describe Leary’s different theories in chronological order because this is the best way to show how Leary’s focus shifted from drugs to computers. The first chapter is a short biography of Leary. I decided to include it because in my opinion we can never fully understand Leary’s theories if we do not know anything about his background (how a sober, buttoned up psychologist became a drug guru of the 60s counterculture, etc). In this biography, I will also shortly describe Leary’s revolutionary approach to psychotherapy which earned him a post at Harvard. (Leary’s humanistic approach to behavior change – he emphasized inner potential and personal growth through self-reliance, so patients avoid dependence on authoritarian doctors and dogmas – is relevant to this paper because it helps me to show that Leary has always encouraged people to “think for themselves and question authority.”)

Thematically as well as chronologically, Leary’s theories can be categorized into three phases:

  1. The Politics of Ecstasy/The Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness (the 60s)

  2. Exo-Psychology (the 70s)

  3. Chaos and Cyberculture/Quantum-Psychology (the 80s and 90s)

In chapter two, I will describe Leary’s Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness (a theory on psychedelic drugs and their effects on human consciousness) and examine the political, ethical, and philosophical implications of this theory. After describing this theory I will discuss Leary’s impact on the 60s counterculture.

Chapter three deals with Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory in which Leary encourages the hippies to let go of the flower-power-60s and find a way to live with technology. (According to Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, technology has the potential to liberate us from all limits. Leary argues that psychedelics and other technologies enable us to decipher the DNA code, which is the key to immortality) After explaining the most important concepts of Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, I will show that in this theory Leary laid the ideological foundation for the cybermovement of the 80s and 90s. I will argue that R. U. Sirius and Bruce Eisner, two leading figures of the cybermovement, were strongly influenced by Leary’s Exo-Psychology.

In chapter four, I will discuss the most important book that Leary wrote in the 90s, Chaos and Cyberculture, in which he conveys his vision of the emergence of a new humanism with an emphasis on questioning authority, independent thinking, individual creativity, and the empowerment of computers and other new technologies. In Chaos and Cyberculture, Leary gives voice to nearly all of cyberculture’s received truths, foremost among them the idea that “the basic elements of the universe are bits of (0/1) information,” which Leary tries to back with a bold interpretation of quantum physics (Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory). I will explain Leary’s concept of the “cyberpunk,” describe the philosophy that lies behind this term, and trace the origin of the term “cybernetics.” Furthermore, I will give an overview of Leary’s theory of the evolution of countercultures (the Beats, the hippies, the cyberpunks), present his explanation for the comeback of LSD in the 90s, and give an outline of Leary’s last book Design for Dying, in which Leary encourages us to design our deaths and predicts that soon computers and other new technologies will enable us to become immortal. (Leary’s prediction in Design for Dying that we will soon be able to download our brains into computers and exist as electronic life forms is a logical consequence of the assumption that the basic elements of the universe are bits of information. Design for Dying makes Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory complete.)

Chapter 4.6. is a comparison of Leary’s different theories. This comparison shows that all of Leary’s theories are based on the belief that science and technology can help us to attain freedom, enlightenment, and immortality. Leary has never been a technophobe, he has always believed in technology. The controversial Harvard psychologist was very well aware that he was “turning on the world” with a high-tech product (LSD), that “no counterculture Earth Mother gave us lysergic acid – it came from a Sandoz lab,” as cyberpunk novelist Bruce Sterling put it (Sterling 1986: xiii)

In chapter 4.7., I argue that Leary was a central figure in the cyberdelic (psychedelic-cybernetic) counterculture of the 90s and that, in his Quantum Psychology theory, Leary expresses the most important beliefs that prevail in this counterculture. I will trace the roots of the cyberdelic (cybernetic-psychedelic) counterculture of the 90s and critically discuss the most important ideas and believes that prevail in this counterculture by comparing two interesting analyses of the cyberdelic phenomenon: Douglas Rushkoff’s Cyberia, and Mark Dery’s Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. This discussion shows that, from a countercultural point of view, the 90s are in many ways a return of the 60s. (Leary is a perfect example for this return of the 60s. He was a cultfigure of the 60s counterculture and he reemerged as an important spokesman of the cyberdelic counterculture of the 80s and 90s, encouraging people to “turn on, boot up, jack in.”) Furthermore, this discussion will help me to uncover the weak points of Leary’s Quantum psychology theory (his concepts of the cyber society and the “posthuman”). Criticizing Leary’s Quantum psychology theory, I will focus on the philosophy that this theory is based on (the notion that reality is an arbitrary construction, that we have chosen our reality arbitrarily).

In the final chapter, I will argue that Leary’s whole trip from psychedelics to computers to designer dying was to make people aware that they are capable of more than the appointed authorities would prefer to grant them. Leary’s advocacy of psychedelics and computers was to show that people are capable of taking charge of their own brains, hearts, and spirits. For me, Leary is the Socrates of the Inforamtion Age because he was one of the few philosophers in our age who carried on the Socratic tradition of teaching people to “think for themselves and question authority.” Many of Leary’s predictions concerning the impact of psychedelics and computers on our culture turned out to be wrong. Leary, however, did never feel embarrassed when one of his predictions turned out to be wrong because he did not want people to blindly believe what he said anyway. His aim was to teach people to “think for themselves and question authority,” his own authority included.

When reading this paper, keep in mind that Leary’s theories are based on the assumption the limits of our reality/-ies are determined by the limits of our imagination. As psychoanalyst, cyberneticist and psychedelic explorer John Lilly put it in The Center of the Cyclone,

In the province of the mind, what is believed to be true is true or becomes true, within limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind, there are no limits. This is one of the major messages I wish to give you about inner trips, whether by LSD, by mediation, by hypnosis, by Gestalt therapy, by group work, by studies whatever means one uses (Lilly 1972: xvi).

1. Biography

Timothy Leary was born on October 22, 1920 in Springfield, Massachusetts. His grandfather, Dr. Timothy Leary, after whom his father “Tote” and Timothy himself were named, was considered to be the richest Irish Catholic in western Massachusetts. He published works on blood circulation. The Learys were “urban, urbane, well-to-do [...] sexy, funloving and selforiented” (FB 24–26). Leary’s mother was also an Irish Catholic but she came from a different social scene. According to Leary, Abigail’s side of the family was “traditional, family oriented, suspicious of all things joyous, frivolous, or newfangled” (FB 26). Tote was “contemptuous of those who worked for the system”(FB 38). He practiced dentistry sporadically, as “a gentlemanly hobby” (cf. FB 38). Timothy turned out to be a smart boy. At the age of ten, when he was reading eight to ten books a week, his grandfather gave him the advice: “Never do anything like anyone else, boy [...] Find your own way” (FB 24).When Timothy was fourteen his alcoholic father left the family, because he was disappointed about the fact that the inheritance from his father was just a few thousand dollars.

After High School Timothy went to Holy Cross, a Jesuit college. He left Holy Cross after about one year, because he was accepted at the military academy West Point. After dropping out of West Point, because he committed a rules infraction, Leary became a psychology major at the University of Alabama. It didn’t take long, however, until he was expelled from university for sleeping over at the girl’s dormitory, which was in 1942 (cf. FB 137). Leary’s draft deferment was cancelled, so he was drafted. Since the army needed psychologists they let Leary finish his degree in the service. In 1944, Leary met Mariannne (?), an audio technician. They married the same year and had two children, Susan and Jack. Leary received his master’s degree in psychology at Washington State University. His thesis was a statistical study of the dimensions of intelligence (Leary 1946). Leary and Marianne moved to Berkeley. Leary earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of California Berkeley (Leary 1950), and over the next few years conducted research in psychotherapy. By the 50s he was teaching at Berkeley and had been appointed Director of Psychological Research at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland (cf. FB 16). His book The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality (Leary 1957) enjoyed much success. His personal life, however, took a turn for the worse. His depressive wife committed suicide on Leary’s 35th birthday.

Leary quit his post at Berkeley because he felt that he was “practicing a profession that didn’t seem to work” (FB 16). Psychology still had not developed a way of significantly and predictably changing human behavior. Leary’s studies showed that one third of the patients who received psychotherapy got better, one third got worse and one third stayed the same. Together with Susan and Jack, Leary moved to Florence, Italy. In spring 1960, Leary got a teaching post at Harvard University, Massachusetts, because the Director of the Harvard Center of Personality Research, McClelland, considered Leary’s revolutionary approach to psychotherapy to be the future of American Psychology. Leary’s theory on existential transaction (Leary 1960) suggested that the whole relationship between patient and therapists should be changed to a more egalitarian information exchange.

On a vacation in Mexico in 1960, Leary was offered some of the so-called “sacred mushrooms” by an anthropologist from the University of Mexico, who got them from a shaman. (The reader interested in the history of these mushrooms is referred to Gordon R. Wasson´s Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality and Terence McKenna´s Food of the Gods.) Leary ate the mushrooms which contained the psychedelic psilocybin. During the mushroom inebriation he entered into a state of mystic-religious ecstasy, which he later called “the deepest religious experience of his life”(Weil 1973:191). Like so many mystics before him he discovered that “the world – so manifestly real – was actually a tiny stage set constructed by the mind,” that human beings are all programmed and “everything we accept as reality is just a social fabrication (FB 32 f.). In his autobiography, Flashbacks, he explains that,

In four hours by that swimming pool in Guernavaca I learned more about the mind, the brain and its structures than I did in the preceding 15 years as a diligent psychologist.
I learned that the brain is an underutilized biocomputer containing billions of unaccessed neurons. I learned that normal consciousness is one drop in an ocean of intelligence. That consciousness and intelligence can be systematically expanded. The brain can be reprogrammed. That the knowledge of how the brain works is the most pressing scientific issue of our time. I was beside myself with enthusiasm, convinced we had found the key [for behavior change] we had been looking for (FB 33).

This was the turning point of his life. Leary, together with his colleague Frank Barron, persuaded Harvard to allow them to study the effects of psychedelic drugs. (It should be mentioned here that at that time most psychedelic drugs were still legal.)

Leary did not follow the medical model of Behaviorism, which is the model of giving drugs to others and then observing the external results. His idea was that the scientist first should teach him-/herself how to use the drug and then take it together with the “patient.” Furthermore, Leary was not out to discover new laws, which is to say, to discover the redundant implications of his own premises. This approach, which is the approach of Humanistic Psychology, was considered to be unscientific by many psychologists at that time. Leary also felt that the term “psychotomimetic” (which means “mimicking psychosis”), which was used in psychology of that time to describe the effects of hallucinogenic drugs, was inadequate, because it reflected a negative, pathological orientation and did not include concepts of enriching the mind and enlarging the vision. He used the term “psychedelic,” meaning “mind-manifesting,” instead (cf. Lee 1992: 55). Leary’s experiments had interesting results. For example, in one of his formal experiments Leary was able to show that psychedelic drugs can produce deep religious experiences similar to those reported by prophets and mystics throughout the ages (cf. PE 15f.).

Celebrities such as writers Aldous Huxley and Allen Ginsberg took part in Leary’s experiments. In addition to the formal studies Leary carried out at Harvard, Leary also held psychedelic sessions in his private apartment. In December 1960, Ginsberg came for a visit. Leary and Ginsberg took psilocybin together. While under the influence of the drug, Ginsberg had a vision: “I’m the messiah. I’ve come down to preach love to the world. We are going to teach people to stop hating”(FB 48f). During the experience Ginsberg became convinced, that psychedelic drugs held the promise of changing mankind, curing sick society. His plan was that everybody should take mind-expanding drugs. Ginsberg’s vision struck a chord in Leary. From then on, Leary saw himself as the messiah whose mission was to enlighten the whole world with psychedelic drugs. Leary believed that political problems were manifestations of psychological problems, which at the bottom were neurological-chemical (cf. FB 50). Together with Ginsberg, Leary started turning on the Beat poets Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Charles Olson, and William Burroughs to psylocibin (cf. FB 49–52, cf. Lee 1992: 80).

It was Michael Hollingshead, a British philosophy student, who gave LSD to Leary (cf. FB 117). LSD is a synthetic psychedelic — first synthesized by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss scientist, in 1938, while seeking for a pain killer for migraine headaches (cf. Hofmann 1980) – which is even stronger than psilocybin. When Leary took LSD he experienced the most shattering experience of his life: ”Pilocybin had sucked me down into nerve nets, into body organs,[...] had let me spiral down the DNA ladder of evolution to the beginning of life on this planet. But LSD was something different [] had flipped my consciousness into a dance of energy, where nothing existed except whirring vibrations and each illusory form was simply a different frequency”(FB 118). From then on, Leary used LSD in his research. With the help of LSD he wanted to get insight into the mechanisms of the brain. He also wanted to develop a language, verbal as well as non-verbal, that makes us able to talk about drug experiences in a scientific way.

When it became public that Leary administered drugs to students (who phoned home to announce they had found God) and got “high” with his test subjects, Harvard insisted that Leary stopped his experiments. Leary was accused by various scientists of leading his experiments in an unscientific way. Since Leary and his colleague Richard Alpert would not stop their experiments (“LSD is more important than Harvard,” Leary said) they were expelled from Harvard in spring 1963. After the “Harvard scandal” most major US magazines featured stories about Leary and LSD, so Leary was suddenly known all over the US as “Mr. LSD”(cf. Lee 1992: 88). During their time at Harvard Leary and Alpert had also started a private drug research project, the International Foundation of Internal Freedom (IFIF), which they continued after their expulsion (cf. Lee 1992: 96). The aim of the project was to study the religious use of psychedelics. It did not take long until the organization counted 3000 due-paying members. Offices were set up all across America. In the summer of 1963, the headquaters of the organization were moved to a hotel in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. A group of Beatniks and bohemians followed Leary to Mexico, but were not allowed to participate in the research programs. It only took six weeks until the IFIF was expelled from Mexico (cf. Lee 1992, 97).

A rich stockbroker, Bill Hitchcock, was very interested in the IFIF´s work, so he offered Leary and Alpert that they could use his mansion in Millbrook, New York, as a place where they could do their research. Leary and Alpert accepted the offer. A core group of about 30 people gathered at Millbrook. IFIF was disbanded and replaced by another organization, the Castilian Foundation (named after an intellectual colony in Hesse´s Glass Bead Game). The members of the Castilian Foundation lead a communal life and did research on psychedelics and oriental meditation. As a guide for their psychedelic sessions the group was using a text written by Leary called The Psychedelic Experience (Leary 1964). This text is a translation of the old Buddhist text The Tibetan Book of the Dead from English into what Leary calls “psychedelic American”(cf. FB 199). Millbrook attracted visitors from all walks of life. To name a few, there was the Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, psychiatrists Humphry Osmond and R. D. Laing, the philosopher Alan Watts, and also a Swedish model named Nina Schlebrugge. In 1964, Leary married Nina Schlebrugge (cf. Lee 1992, 102). However, their relationship did not last long. They parted soon after their honeymoon in India.

In December 1965, Leary, his children, and his soon to be wife Rosemary Woodruff wanted to go on vacation to Mexico, but Leary was arrested after he and his daughter had been caught with a small amount of marijuana at the border between Mexico and Texas. Leary was sentenced to 30 (!) years in prison (cf. FB 242). While his lawyers appealed the verdict, Leary returned to Millbrook, continuing with drug experiments, and set up a religious group, the League for Spiritual Discovery (L.S.D.).

Inspired by the media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, Leary started using the media, trying to change the negative associations that people had when they heard the word “LSD” into positive ones. He promised LSD users beauty, philosophic wonder, religious revelation, increased intelligence, mystical romance, and better sex (cf. FB 251). It was at that time that Leary came up with the slogan “Turn On – Tune In – Drop Out”. “Turn On” meant to go within, with the help of psychedelics, meditation or other methods. It meant to become sensitive to the many levels of consciousness one can reach. “Tune In” meant to interact harmoniously with the world one is surrounded by, to express one’s new internal perspectives. “Drop Out” suggested an active process of detachment from involuntary and unconscious commitments (cf. FB 253). What he wanted to express with his slogan is that psychedelics (especially LSD) create a “new consciousness” and teach you to reject repressive politics, war, violence, military service, racism, erotic hypocrisy, sexism, and established religion (cf. Leary 1995: 8). In 1966, LSD became illegal. For Leary, the criminalization of LSD meant that psychedelics and what he called “new consciousness” became a political issue indissolubly intertwined with peace, sexual liberation, “end the draft”, ecology, etc(cf. Leary 1995: 9). In 1968, when the 60s revolution reached its peak , Tim became active socially as an anti- Vietnam protester, sang “Give peace a chance” with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and announced his candidacy for governor of California in March 1970 (cf. FB 287). In The Politics of Ecstasy, Leary suggested a new Declaration of Independence based on the idea of personal freedom (freedom to alter one’s own consciousness). In spite of the fact that President Nixon called Leary “the most dangerous man on the planet” (see Timothy Leary is dead, a documentary about Leary’s life and work by Paul Davis, 1996) things looked good for Leary, because the Texas drug case was overturned by the Supreme Court.

However, it did not take long until Leary received a 10 year sentence for another arrest for possession of marijuana. He was sent to jail immediately. In September 1970, Leary escaped from prison (cf. FB 291). He fled to Algiers where he was offered asylum with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s government in exile. Since Cleaver put him under house arrest Leary fled to Switzerland and tried to find refuge there. While waiting for asylum, Leary visited Austria, where he acted in an anti-heroin documentary (cf. FB 328). Leary did not get asylum in Switzerland. He was caught by the police in Afghanistan and handed over to the American Drug Enforcement Agency.

Starting in 1972, Leary spent time in several different prisons and was finally released in 1976 (cf. FB 366). During this time he wrote several books about “neurotechnology” (methods to control our nervous systems), the most important one of them being Exo-Psychology (Leary 1974). He started giving lectures at colleges and appeared in talk shows. This time, however, his main subject was not LSD, but space migration and life extension. He married Barbara Chase who had a son, Zach. In the early 80s, Leary went on a lecture tour with G. Gordon Liddy (a former law enforcement officer who, in the 60s, raided Millbrook and later was sent to prison because he was involved in the Watergate scandal). In their very ironic debates Leary and Liddy caricatured each other’s former roles (cf. Lee 1992: 293).

During the 80s, Leary turned to computers as his “transformational tool of choice” and became one of the first promoters of virtual reality and the Internet. He proclaimed that “the personal computer is the LSD of the 90s,” empowering people on a mass level (cf. CC coverpage). Leary became a spokesman for a new high-tech subculture, the “cyberpunks.” Furthermore, he started his own software company, Futique Inc., which designs programs that “digitize thought-images,” produces “cyberwear” for virtual reality (TV goggles and quadrophonic sound systems that immerse the user in 3-D computer-graphic worlds) and develops educational software for students (cf. FB 384f). Leary went on college lecture tours again and also gave talks on “rave parties.” His lecture tours became multi-media extravaganzas with live video and music. His books became graphic novels that were products of desktop publishing. Some of his books were converted into psychedelic audio-books or computer programs. For example, What does WoMan want? (a novel written by Leary in 1976) was converted into an interactive computer program, a “performance book” as Leary calls it (Leary 1988a). Leary designed a web page ( where people are encouraged to discuss the effects of psychedelic drugs, etc. In 1995, Leary discovered that he had incurable prostate cancer. He refused to be treated in a hospital and “designed” his dying process to be a party instead. By challenging the solemnity of dying – shortly before he died he wrote a book called Design for Dying (Leary 1997b) in which he says that we should question the traditional notion of what dying is and design our dying process the way we like it — Leary broke the last and greatest taboo. Leary passed away on May 31, 1996. His ashes were sent into space.

2. The Politics of Ecstasy/The Seven Levels of Consciousness (the 60s)

Revolution is a personal matter. You create the world; you must change it. (Paul Williams)[25]

In the 60s, Leary wrote several books on psychedelic drugs and higher levels of consciousness. The most important of them is The Politics of Ecstasy. It could be said that all of these books describe one more or less consistent theory about human consciousness. I want to call this theory “Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness”. (I did not choose the name “Politics of Ecstasy” for this theory because I think this title focuses on the political aspect too much. In Leary’s theory, politics, which Leary saw as a primitive struggle for power and territory, is only one stage in the development of human consciousness towards enlightenment. Leary thought that we should leave politics behind and move on to higher levels of consciousness. It should be mentioned here that the title “Politics of Ecstasy” was not Leary’s idea. It was Abbie Hoffman who suggested this title to Leary (cf. PE 1).) In this chapter, I want to describe the Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness and discuss Leary’s impact on the 60s counterculture.

2.1. Ancient models are good but not enough

Leary’s work, especially the theory about human consciousness he developed in the early 60s, was very much influenced by Eastern philosophies and religions. In his spiritual approach to psychedelic experiences Leary felt affirmed by the discovery of ancient Asian spiritual texts. Ancient Asian spiritual texts are concerned with transcendence, with learning to go beyond the ego-centered perspectives of ordinary human consciousness, beyond the dualities of right and wrong, beyond space and time, and with becoming liberated from the cravings and fears that characterize human existence. For Buddhists, Hinduists, and Taoists, the method of attaining such liberating transcendence was not psychedelics but meditation. However, Leary was convinced that their goal was essentially the same as that of spiritually oriented psychedelic explorers. Leary translated two of the ancient texts, the Buddhist text Tibetan Book of the Dead[26] and the Taoist text Tao Te Ching[27] from English into what he calls “psychedelic American.” These two ancient texts describe different levels of consciousness, stages that we have to go through if we want to attain enlightenment. There are seven levels in the Buddhist text, five levels in the Taoist text. Both texts are concerned with giving up the supremacy of the “egohood” and entering a mystical state of illumination which goes beyond form, that is, beyond words and “hallucinatory struggles.” Leary used these translations as guide books for his psychedelic sessions.

The most important essays that describe Leary’s own theory about human consciousness can be found in The Politics of Ecstasy. This book was first published in 1968. It is a collection of essays and lectures on psychedelic drug experience and the personal, social, and political changes that psychedelics were supposed to bring about. In The Politics of Ecstasy, Leary praises LSD as the key to altering our consciousness, which can help us to increase our intelligence, creativity, sexual pleasures, philosophical insight, to abolish authoritarian dogmatic social structures, and to speed up the evolution of humankind in general. On the basis of his drug experiments at Harvard and personal experiences with the psychedelic drugs LSD and psilocybin, Leary built an all-encompassing theory about human consciousness, which is a synthesis of eastern philosophy and western science and gives answers to basic questions of philosophy, psychology, politics and religion. (Leary was not the first person who tried to create such a synthesis. For example, there were William James, C.G. Jung, and writer and early psychedelic explorer Aldous Huxley who tried to create a synthesis between eastern and western thinking.) In Leary’s opinion ancient eastern texts on the nature of consciousness were helpful but they were only very vague descriptions of the unknown “phenomenological territories” Leary wanted to explore. Leary thought that he had found a language that was more adequate to describe psychedelic experiences and the nature of human consciousness. The language Leary uses in his Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness is a mixture of scientific vocabulary, mystical terms used in eastern philosophical and religious texts, and psychedelic slang.

2.2. “The Seven Tongues of God”

The lecture in which he presented his theory of human consciousness for the first time is a lecture he gave in 1963 at a meeting of Lutheran psychologists. By describing his model of the Seven Levels of Consciousness Leary tried to show that eastern philosophies and discoveries of western science do not contradict but rather complement each other[28]. The lecture, which in The Politics of Ecstasy appears under the title “The Seven Tongues of God”(PE 13–58), was originally titled “The Religious Experience: Its Production and Interpretation.” Leary begins this lecture by describing two formal experiments with psilocybin that were carried out at Harvard. (The description of the first experiment helps to see that his approach to psychotherapy was really revolutionary.)

The first formal experiment conducted by Leary’s group was a rehabilitation program carried out at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Concord, a maximum security prison. The inmates were given (synthetic) psilocybin to find out whether the drug would help prisoners change their ways, thereby lowering the recidivism rate. They formed groups and at least one member of Leary’s group took psilocybin with the prisoners. Part of the project was designed to help ex-inmates (only those who received the drug) get integrated into society again after their release. The study proved successful in the short term, only 25% of those who took the drug ended up in prison again, as compared to the normal return-rate of about 80% (cf. Lee 1992: 75; cf. FB 102).

The other experiment, which was conducted by Walter Pahnke as part of his Ph.D. dissertation for Harvard Divinity School, dealt with the relationship between drug-induced and naturally occurring religious experiences. In this experiment Pahnke sought to determine, whether the transcendent experiences reported during psychedelic sessions were similar to the mystical experiences described in various holy scriptures and reported by prophets throughout the ages. Pills, half of them containing psilocybin and half of them being placebos, were given to theology students at a Good Friday service. Neither the test subjects nor Leary and Pahnke knew who had received the drug and who had not. The results showed that the participants who took the psilocybin pill had significantly deeper mystical religious experiences than the ones who received placebos in the same situation. Leary concluded that a mystical experience could be produced chemically by those who sought it, provided that “set” and “setting” are appropriate (cf. FB 108). (“Set” is the character structure and attitudinal predisposition. In this case it means being religiously motivated. By reading books on psychedelic experiences and protocols written by other subjects the divinity students prepared themselves for the drug experience. “Setting” is the immediate situation; in this case: a Good Friday service.)

After describing these experiments, Leary raises the question what a religious experience is and gives his definition: “The religious experience is the ecstatic, incontrovertibly certain, subjective discovery of answers to seven basic spiritual questions”(PE 19). What are these seven basic spiritual questions Leary suggests?

  1. The ultimate Power question: What is the basic energy underlying the universe?

  2. The Life Question: What is life? Where and how did it begin? How is it evolving?

  3. The Human Being Question: Who is man? What is his structure and function?

  4. The Awareness Question: How does man sense, experience, know?

  5. The Ego Question: Who am I?

  6. The Emotional Question: What should I feel about it (life)?

  7. The Ultimate Escape Question: How do I get out of it (cf. PE 19)?

After formulating these questions, Leary explains that the purpose of life is religious discovery, which, for him, means to answer these questions and also experience the answers. However, Leary’s concept of religion, as we will see, is totally different from the rigid hierarchical dogmatic religious systems of Catholicism, Protestantism or any kind of fundamentalism. Leary makes the reader aware that one important fact about these questions is that not only the religions of the world give answers to these questions, the data of natural sciences do so as well. He compares answers given by science with the experiences described by his test subjects and finds striking similarities. Let me give one of Leary’s examples: What is the scientific answer to the first question? Leary explains that Nuclear physicists, for example, suggest that the basic energy underlying the universe is located within the nucleus. “The nucleus radiates a powerful electrical field which holds and controls the electrons around it.[...] Objects, which on the macroscopic level seem to be solid, are actually a transparent sphere of emptiness, thinly populated with whirling electrons” (PE 22). Leary points out that psychedelic reports often contain phrases which seem to describe similar phenomena, subjectively experienced: “I felt open to a total flow, over and around and through my body[...] All objects were dripping, streaming, with white hot light of electricity which flowed in the air [...]”(PE 23). He comes to the conclusion that “those aspects of the psychedelic experience which subjects report to be ineffable and ecstatically religious involve a direct awareness of the energy process which physicists and biochemists and physiologists and neurologists and psychologists and psychiatrists measure” (PE 21).

Based on this conclusion, Leary builds his theory about human consciousness. The basic assumption of this theory is that consciousness is based on physical structure. Leary sees consciousness as a biochemical process[29] (cf. PE 339). He also equates consciousness with energy: “Consciousness is energy received and decoded by structure” (PE 342). According to Leary’s theory, there are as many levels of consciousness in the human body as there are anatomical structures to receive and decode energy. Leary suggests that there are seven levels of consciousness. These seven levels correspond to the seven questions. (I will explain the seven levels and their correlation to anatomical structures further below.) And now comes the crucial point in Leary’s theory. Since, according to Leary, consciousness is a biochemical process Leary concludes that the key to changing consciousness is also chemical. He suggests that there are specific drugs to “turn on” each of the seven levels. Most people would not be capable of reaching the higher levels of consciousness (levels 1–4) and having religious experiences, except with the help of psychedelic drugs. Leary admits that there are other ancient methods, like meditation, which can help us to reach higher levels of consciousness, but “at present time, man is so sick, that only a few people can use ancient methods, so that it is safe to say that drugs are the specific, and almost the only, way that the American is ever going to have a religious experience” (PE 297). Leary predicts that “psychedelics are the future of mankind,” that psychedelics will be the religion of the twenty first century and that during the next few hundred years the major activity of man will be the scientific exploration of our consciousness (i.e., our nervous system) with psychedelic drugs (cf. PE 346). In his Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness, he gives his view of how the future of mankind is going to look like. Now, what are these seven levels of consciousness? Which drug “turns on” which level? And why exactly are most people not capable of reaching the higher levels?

Before I describe the seven levels, I want to make a short comment on Leary’s style: Leary’s language is very euphoric, agitating, poetic, and transcends standard “either/or” logic (Eastern Philosophy does so as well). Leary mixes Buddhist and Hinduist metaphors with accurate scientific descriptions of biological, neurological, psychological and physical processes. Another thing that should be mentioned here to avoid confusion is that, according to Leary’s Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness, “reality” is a construction of our nervous system. Leary argues that a certain model of reality is imprinted in our nervous systems in childhood, and this model (or “neural program”) determines what we will “see” and “not see.” In most people the programs (imprints) they use to process information from the outside world remain the same for their whole life. If we took psychedelics, however, we would be able to suspend imprints, experience other realities (different levels of consciousness) and create our own realities.

(In The Politics of Ecstasy, Leary does not give very elaborate definitions of the seven levels of consciousness he suggests. In his later works — in the 70s, 80s, and 90s — Leary elaborates on this theory.)

2.3. Leary’s model of the Seven Levels of Consciousness

This is how Leary describes this model in the texts “The Seven Tongues of God” and “The Molecular Revolution”(PE 332–361). (Since in these texts Leary describes the seventh level first I am going to do so as well.)

1. The Void (level 7):

This is the lowest level. It is a state of anesthesia which can be produced by narcotics, barbiturates (sleeping pills) and large doses of alcohol. Typical examples for people living on this level of (un-)consciousness are heroin addicts and alcoholics who want to escape the existential pressure of being. Leary notes that he can very well understand these people who want to escape the ego that narrows down our perception and escape all the social games of our society –he even calls them “deeply religious” -, but their attempts to escape the ego are futile because “you just can’t keep holding the ‘off’ switch”(PE 43). The question (in Leary’s list of seven questions) that corresponds to this level is the Ultimate Escape question: How do I get out of it (life)? Or you could also ask: When does it (life) end? Leary’s answer is that life never ends. Science tells us that life is an ongoing process of being born and dying. According to Leary, it is only during a psychedelic experience that we learn that actually there is no death, there is nothing to fear. Leary suggests that we should “go with the flow” of life, because stability is an illusion; everything is changing all the time (this concept can be found in Buddhism as well).

2. Emotional Stupor (level 6):

This is the level of consciousness that people are on when they get emotional. Leary’s concept of emotions is a negative one. He writes that, “all emotions are based on fear. The emotional person cannot think,[...] is turned off sensually [...] is an inflexible robot gone berserk” (PE 38). It should be mentioned here that love, for Leary, is not an emotion. He sees love as a state without emotional greed which is not ego-centered. The answer to “How shall I feel about it ?” is that you should not get emotional at all. Only if you “turn off” your emotions can you reach higher levels of consciousness.

The drug that brings you in an emotional and stubborn state is alcohol.

3. The State of Ego Consciousness/The Mental-social-symbolic Level (level 5):

This state of consciousness is dominated by the ego and the mind, the seat of thinking and reasoning. According to Leary, the most important reason why most of us cannot reach higher levels of consciousness is that we cannot escape the narrow “reality tunnel” of the ego, which is formed by what we have been told by our parents, educational institutions and governmental agencies. The ego is always socially defined. “Social reality” is a neural program (cf. PE 35). (As I have already mentioned, Leary argues that a certain model of reality is imprinted in our nervous system during childhood which determines how we see the world.) We are told what we are and we accept what we are told. We are conditioned to see, hear, smell, and to behave in a certain way. Psychological censoring-mechanisms (imprinting and conditioning) have made us “blind Pavlovian dogs” who do whatever our rulers want us to do. We can not use our senses in a free, direct way. We see the world through the categories we have been taught to use. Sensory conditioning has forced us to accept a “reality” which is “a comic-tragic farce illusion”(cf. PE 33).

Who am I? Leary argues that for the average American this question is answered totally in terms of artificial roles (cf. PE 35). Only if we drop out of social roles can we find divinity and discover that the ego is only a fraction of our identity. Leary says that the perspective on this question above comes only when we “step off the TV stage set defined by mass-media-social-psychology-adjustment-normality”(PE 35). Then we will discover that we exist at every level of energy and every level of consciousness. Who am I? Leary’s answer is that you can be whoever you want to be. With the help of psychedelics you can control your nervous system and create your own reality. Who you are depends on which level of consciousness you are at the moment. For example, if you are at the atomic level (level 1) you can be “a galaxy of nuclear-powered atoms[...]the universe[...]God of Light”(PE 35). At the cellular level you can be “the entire chain of life [...] the key rung of the DNA ladder [...] the now-eye of the 2-billion-year-old uncoiling serpent”(ibid.)[30].

Without psychedelics we cannot go beyond the ego-centred perspectives of human consciousness. The ”ego drugs” coffee, nicotine, and meta-amphetamines (pep pills), which dominate our Western culture, only “blow up” our egos.

The person who cannot transcend the three levels discussed so far lives in a pretty bleak world. He/she is a victim of his/her parents, educational systems, the government, and of psychological processes in the brain (e.g., conditioning) which he/she cannot control. But as soon as we reach the higher levels of consciousness that Leary defines in his Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness, there is freedom, beauty, ecstasy.

4. The Sensory Level (level 4):

When we transcend the level of the conditioned mind with its symbolic representations of the world, then our senses are opened and we “experience afresh the hardly bearable ecstasy of direct energy exploding on our nerve endings” (PE 34). On this level of consciousness our perception of the environment transcends the usual limitations of sensory perception. Leary notes that this awakening and controlling of our is the most basic part of every religious method (cf. PE 34). “Control means the ability to turn off the mind, ignore the enticing clamor of symbolic seduction and open the senses like flowers, accepting like sunshine the gift of those energies which man’s senses are designed to receive,” he explains (PE 34). Leary puts much emphasis on this level of consciousness. (We have to be aware of the fact, that the direct and intense sensual experience – the Acid Rock and Jazz music, nature’s beauty, psychedelic artwork, free love — was one of the most important aspects of life for the hippies.)

The drug that opens our senses to this direct experience is marijuana.

5. The Somatic (Body) Level (level 3):

The question that corresponds to the Somatic Level is “What is the human being?”. Science defines man as an evolutionary form emerging from animal-mammalian-primate stock characterized by a particular anatomy and physiology. Man’s body contains a complex system of life functions of which he/she normally has no direct experience. (According to Leary, a small dose of marijuana is not sufficient to experience your inner body functions.) A deep psychedelic experience, however, is “the sudden confrontation with your body, the shattering resurrection of your body. You are capitulated into the matrix of quadrillions of cells and somatic communication systems. Cellular flow. You are swept down the tunnels and canals of your own waterworks. Visions of microscopic processes [...]”(PE 30). You discover that your body is the universe, that you are the universe, because — as Gnostics, Hermetics, and Tantric gurus said – what is without is within (cf. ibid.). If you look within yourself you will discover that “the kingdom of heaven is within you” (ibid.).

The drugs that trigger off this awareness of your body functions are large doses of hashish, moderate doses of psilocybin, MDA (“Ecstasy”), and small doses of LSD.

6. The Cellular Level (level 2):

This level leads us one step further into the microscopic world of our body to the biological cell and the DNA — the genetic code. The questions that are answered on this level of consciousness are “What is life?” and “How does life evolve?”. Science tells us that the DNA is the blueprint of life which (along with environmental factors) determines evolution. According to Leary, the secrets of your DNA can be revealed to you if you reach this level of consciousness. Leary was convinced that the DNA “remembers” all the important facts of the evolution of life (cf. PE 28) — of life in the evolutionary sense of the word (phylogenesis: single cell, fish, vertebrates, mammals, etc) as well as of a person’s individual life (ontogenesis: intrauterine events, birth, etc). Everybody can re-experience all these facts; everybody can see what part he/she plays in the evolution of life. Practically all of the test subjects in Leary’s LSD experiments reported evolutionary journeys and experiences of rebirth. “It is all there in our nervous systems,” Leary says; we just have to become aware of it. Leary points out that he is not the first person who talks about this level of consciousness. He refers us to Buddhist and Hinduist reincarnation theories which describe a similar level of consciousness[31].

In order to reach this level of consciousness you have to take a moderate dose of LSD or a large dose of psilocybin or mescaline (cf. PE 344).

7. The Atomic — Solar Level (level 1):

This is the highest level which can only be triggered off by high doses of LSD (cf. PE 344). If you are on this level, you are aware of energy transactions among molecular structures inside the cell. You are experiencing the basic energy of the universe (see question 1). More than that (this is where Buddhism comes in), “Subjects speak of participating in a merging with pure (i.e., content-free) energy, visual nets, the collapse of external structure into wave patterns, the awareness that everything is a dance of particles, sensing the smallness and fragility of our system, visions of the void [a Buddhist concept], the world ending explosions[...]” (PE 24). Leary notes that the metaphors he uses are inadequate to describe the actual experience, but “at present we just don’t have a better experiential vocabulary”(ibid.). Leary admits that his metaphors may sound farfetched but ”if God were to permit you a brief voyage into the divine process, let you whirl for a second into the atomic nucleus or spin you out on a light-year trip through the galaxies, how on earth would you describe what you saw when you got back, breathless, to your office”(ibid.)? Leary repeatedly uses the terms “void” or “the clear white light” to describe this level of consciousness. These terms are adopted from Buddhist philosophy[32].

Leary admits that the levels of consciousness and the relationships between certain drugs and each level of consciousness he proposed are still hypothetical. However, he seriously encourages scientists to study these relationships. A scientific study would be possible because his hypotheses are cast in operational language (cf. PE 345).

2.4. The importance of “set” and “setting”

As far as the nature of any psychedelic experience triggered by drugs like LSD or psilocybin is concerned, Leary argues that LSD and all the other psychedelics have no standard effects which are purely pharmacological in nature; it is not the drug that produces the transcendent experience. The drug only inhibits conditioned reflexes. The enormous range of experience produced by various chemicals stems from differences in “set” and “setting” (cf. Timothy Leary. The Psychedelic Experience. Translated into HTML by Den Walter. 20 Mar. 1998: n. pag. Online. Internet. , general introduction). (I know that I have already shortly explained these terms, but I want to give a more detailed explanation of them and the concept that lies behind them, because, for me, this concept seems to be the key to Leary’s theory.)

In the general introduction to The Psychedelic Experience Leary explains set and setting as follows:

Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time (attitudinal predisposition). Setting is physical (the situation) – the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social – feelings of persons present towards on another; and cultural – prevailing views as to what is real. It is for that reason that manuals or guide-books are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories which modern science has made accessible (ibid.).

During one of his many psychedelic sessions Leary discovered that the drug only acts as a chemical key which “opens the mind [and] frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures”(ibid.). The person who takes the drug, not the drug, would be responsible for how the trip is going to turn out. In High Priest, Leary describes this discovery which was disturbing for him:

There seemed to be equal amounts of God and Devil (or whatever you want to call them) within the nervous system. Psychedelic drugs just open the door to the Magic Theatre, and the stages and dramas you encounter depend on what you are looking for, your state of mind when you begin [...] I began to get a sinking feeling. Psychedelic drugs didn’t seem to solve any problems. They just magnified, mythified, clarified to jewel-like sharpness the basic problem of life and evolution (Leary 1995: 80)[33].

From this discovery Leary concludes that we can “design” our psychedelic trips, which means that we can actually design our own realities. We only have to create the right set and setting.

2.5. The political and ethical aspects of Leary’s “Politics of Ecstasy

In the 60s, Leary was convinced that psychedelics were necessary for the future evolution of mankind (in the 80s Leary changed his mind). For him, it was no coincidence that LSD was discovered around the time when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and the Holocaust happened. The Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness is supposed to show us the way to peace, individual freedom and enlightenment. In the 60s, Leary felt that the limited vision of reality prevailing in modern society and socio-political conflicts were largely due to the dominant ego-drugs, alcohol and coffee. His idea was to change the drugs, and a change of heart would naturally follow. He claimed that “politics, religion, economics, social structure are all based on shared states of consciousness. The cause of social conflict is usually neurological. The cure is biochemical”(Lee 1992: 79).

As far as the political and ethical aspects of Leary’s theory on human consciousness are concerned, Leary argues that the changes in peoples’ consciousness that psychedelics brought about have made necessary new ethical commandments, and a revision of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution. In The Politics of Ecstasy, he suggests new ethical commandments, a new Declaration of Independence (the “Declaration of Evolution”), and a new American Constitution (the “The Constitution of Life”). Leary’s “Declaration of Evolution” and his “Constitution of Life” focus on his vision of the future of human evolution, that is, the future of human consciousness he describes in the “scientific-religious” Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness.

The two new commandments Leary suggests instead of the ten old ones are:

  1. Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy fellow man.

  2. Thou shalt not prevent thy fellow man from altering his own consciousness (PE 94).

These commandments were, so he claims, revealed to him by his nervous system. (I think it is obvious that the message that Leary tries to communicate with these two commandments is: Question authority! Legalize psychedelic drugs!)

Leary’s “Declaration of Evolution”(PE 362ff.), which is in many aspects similar to the original Declaration of Independence, is based on three “God-given rights” (God being Nature and our genetic wisdom): the “Freedom to Live, Freedom to Grow, and Freedom to pursue Happiness in their own style”(PE 362). In his “Declaration of Evolution,” Leary encourages the reader to question authority, including his own authority. Leary does not want people to blindly believe in the things he says. “Write your own declaration [...] write your own Bible [...] Start your own religion,” Leary writes (PE 95f.). In order to be able to start your own religion you would have to “Turn On – Tune In – Drop Out”. “Turn On” means to go within, with the help of psychedelics, meditation or other methods. It means to find a sacrament which “returns you to the temple of God,” which is your own body, and become sensitive to the many levels of consciousness one can reach. “Tune In” stands for starting a new sequence of behavior that reflects your vision and for interacting harmoniously with the world you are surrounded by to express your new internal perspectives. “Drop Out” suggests an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary and unconscious commitments. “Drop Out” means self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change (cf. FB 253, cf. Leary 1995: 320). In The Politics of Ecstasy, Leary encourages people to quit their jobs, quit school, and not to vote. What he wants to express with his slogan is that psychedelics (especially LSD) create a “new consciousness” and teach people to reject repressive politics, war, violence, military service, racism, erotic hypocrisy, sexism, established religion (cf. Leary 1995: 8). In “Timothy Leary is dead,” a documentary about Leary’s life and work, painter Claire Burch recalls what Leary said in an interview in the 60s: “He said that it was his mission to introduce LSD to the world – and he said it like a general. Even if there are a few [LSD-] victims we still would have to look at the larger picture” (Davis 1996).

Leary has always seen politics as something primitive which has to be transcended. According to Leary, real change is not possible within the system of politics. It is not enough to “change the name of the tax-controller and the possessor of the key to the prison cell” (Leary 1988: 22) This is why we have to “abolish this mammalian push-pull to get on top”(ibid.). Leary’s aim has always been to de-politicize young people. “People should not be allowed to talk politics,” he states, “except on all fours”(Lee 1992: 166). Revolution would be important but “Revolution without Revelation is Tyranny” and “Revelation without Revolution is Slavery”(Leary 1988: 16), as Leary had learned from the teachings of the mystic George Gurdjeff. For Leary, the only revolution that can be successful is a revolution of the mind because the “world” is a creation of our minds.

2.6. Leary’s impact on the young generation of the 60s

In order to understand Leary’s impact on the youth culture and politics in the 60s we have to be aware that in the 60s the use of psychedelics and politics were strongly linked. Many historians writing about the 60s avoid any discussion of psychedelics without which the 60s, as we know them, would never have occurred. It should be remembered that in the 60s most of the political activism was connected, directly or indirectly, to the ingestion of psychedelics and therefore was shaped by ecstatic states of being. Michael Rossmann, a veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement (this radical left wing student organization arose on the Berkeley campus in the fall of 1964 and protested for civil rights, disarmament, university reform, and so forth) perfectly described this connection between psychedelics and politics when he said: “When a young person took his first puff of psychoactive smoke, he also drew in the psychoactive culture as a whole, the entire matrix of law and association surrounding the drug, its induction and transaction. One inhaled a certain way of dressing, talking, acting, certain attitudes. One became a youth criminal [sic] against the state” (Lee 1992: 129). Also Peter Stafford, in his Psychedelics Encyclopedia, points out that much of the “social experimentation” in the 60s — which resulted in a change of American attitudes toward work, toward the police and the military and toward such groups as women and gays — was touched off by the mass use of LSD (cf. Stafford 1992: 54).

Leary was known to say that his aims were not political. For him, politics were “game playing, a bad trip, a bringdown, a bummer.” His own definition of the word ecstasy, however, shows that drug induced ecstasy and politics are connected in a certain way and that the ecstatic experience itself is a political subversive act. Leary defines ecstasy as “the experience of attaining freedom from limitations, either self-imposed or external”(PE 1). He notes that the word ex-stasis (the Greek root of ecstasy), by definition, is “an ongoing on/off process that requires a continual sequence of ‘dropping out’”(ibid.). When many individuals share the ecstatic experience at the same time, they would create a brief-lived counterculture (cf. ibid.). By telling the young generation not to care about politics but to “Turn on — Tune in — Drop out” instead, Leary contradicts himself. Turning on and dropping out are political acts. If you “turn on” (which means to take illegal drugs) and “drop out” (which means to quit your job, quit school, and not to vote), you automatically destroy the existing political and social systems. Leary says that he does not want blind followers and at the same time encourages people to trust him and take LSD because it would solve practically every problem. Leary’s own actions are in contradiction to his first commandment “Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy fellow man.”

In the 60s, there were many people (Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, just to name a few of them) who promoted the use of pschedelic drugs. Still, Leary stands out as the promoter, apologist, and “High Priest of psychedelia” nonpareil. Theodore Roszak in his book about the 60s counterculture, The Making of a Counterculture, writes that, “Surely if we look for the figures who have done the most to push psychedelic experience along the way toward becoming a total and autonomous culture, it is Leary who emerges as the Ultra of the campaign”(Roszak 1995: 164).

What is the difference between Leary and the other promoters of psychedelics? If we compare Leary to novelist Ken Kesey who also “turned on” a lot of people (see Wolfe 1969), there is one big difference. In contrast to Ken Kesey, whose notorious “acid tests” were supposed to be only fun and games — Kesey would put LSD in people’s drinks and without knowing that their drinks were laced with LSD people would drink it -, Leary told the young generation that getting turned on was not just a childish game but “the sacred rite of a new age”(ibid. 166). For Leary, the psychedelic movement was a religious movement. Leary managed to embed the younger generation’s psychedelic fascination in a religious context. For many young people Leary’s ideas were attractive because they were looking for something to believe in anyway and it was considered to be “hip” to take drugs too.

Since the moment Leary came out of the academic closet more and more people saw him as a prophet for a better future. Leary was just in time with his LSD campaign because the younger generation was ready to break out of the conservative, materialistic, and complacent world of their parents anyway. When, in 1964, the US got involved in the Vietnam war this was just one more reason for people to join Leary’s side. Who exactly were those people who saw Leary as a prophet for a better future?

First of all, there were the Beat poets and other artists who lived in communities on both coasts of the US who considered Leary to be a “hero of American consciousness.” Allen Ginsberg, for example, saw Leary as an antidote to a society dominated by technology which degraded people to robots. For Ginsberg, Leary was one of the few people in our century who kept up the tradition of the “new consciousness” which, according to Ginsberg, can be traced back through old gnostic texts, visions, artists, and shamans (cf. Leary 1995 Foreword by Ginsberg). Even William Burroughs who initially was skeptical about Leary’s “save-the-world antics” later came to regard Leary as a “true pioneer of human evolution”(cf. FB 8).

After Leary had been dismissed from Harvard, students from various universities throughout the US paid him to give lectures at their universities. Leary’s organizations for spiritual discovery (IFIF, Castilia Foundation, L.S.D.) and also his “psychedelic celebrations” — featuring re-enactments of the lives of Buddha, Christ, Mohammed and light shows which were designed to produce an “acid trip” without drugs — were enjoying much success. Various Rock groups, for example the Beatles, were using passages from Leary’s books as lyrics for their songs (cf. Lee 1992: 181). At the first Human Be-In in San Francisco in January 1967 Leary’s speech was the highlight of the afternoon (cf. Lee 1992: 161). Many people of the radical and hip scene that developed in the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco in the early 60s, the hippies, and even members of the New Left accepted as gospel every word Leary uttered (cf. ibid.).

Of course, not everybody — especially not the government — was impressed by Leary’s message. Many people accused Leary of spoiling innocent young people and seducing them into taking drugs which would ruin their lives. They felt that it was irresponsible to encourage the youth to use psychedelics and to advocate the legalization of those drugs.

The US government was against the use of psychedelic drugs in general. The consumption of these drugs was considered to be morally wrong and dangerous to the user as well as society. With the LSD wave came a wave of establishment panic. Suddenly LSD was considered to be more dangerous than heroin (cf. Stafford 1992: 59). Interviews with college presidents, narcotics agents, doctors and other “authorities” appeared creating an atmosphere of national emergency. Headlines like “Warning to LSD users: You may go blind”, “Mad LSD Slayer”, or “LSD causes chromosome damage” could be found in nearly every newspaper. Bills that made possession of LSD and other psychedelics a felony were introduced into state legislature throughout the nation (cf. Stafford 1992: 58–62). Under President Nixon, a fierce, rhetorical campaign was launched to define drugs as major source of crime in America and to make the war on drugs and crime a national priority. Nixon declared the (ab-)use of drugs a “national threat”, a threat to personal health and the safety of millions of Americans (cf. Bertram 1996: 4f.). Given these facts, it is not surprising that Nixon called Leary “the most dangerous man on the planet” – nor is it surprising that Leary found himself in prison on drug charges, facing thirty years incarceration for a small amount of marijuana, six months before he wanted to challenge Ronald Reagan in the election to be governor of California, 1970 (cf. PE Editor’s note). This thirty year sentence transformed Leary into the LSD movement’s first martyr. (Of course, Leary appealed the verdict.)

In Psychedelics Encyclopedia, Peter Stafford notes that in the 60s the confusion among people about the physical and mental effects of psychedelics was great but their knowledge was not so great (cf. Stafford 1992: 20). Both Leary as well as the US government gave a distorted picture of what the effects of psychedelic drugs really are. Leary wanted everybody to take LSD because his own drug experiments were so successful. The government wanted to ban the use of all psychedelics because they only wanted to see only the dangerous aspect of psychedelic drug use (and politicians felt that they lost their power to rule the country). Neither of the two would admit that psychedelic drugs can have positive as well as negative effects. You might have a revealing experience but psychedelics can also be dangerous to your mental health. Encouraging people to question authority is one thing, encouraging people to take drugs that may ruin their lives is another.

Since Leary had a large influence over a good many people who took LSD because he promised them that by doing so their dreams would come true, I want to talk at least a little bit about the potential risks of the use of psychedelics, especially LSD. What are those risks?


We all know LSD-horror-stories, like the one in which an unknowing innocent person takes LSD, becomes depressed, and then commits suicide. Now, is it true that LSD might trigger a serious depression or even suicide attempts? In 1960, Dr. Sidney Cohen (a psychologist attached professionally to UCLA and the Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles) compared forty-four studies on the use of LSD and mescaline/peyote, trying to find out the dangers of psychedelic drug use and psychedelic treatment. He divided the 5000 patients and volunteers who took part in various psychedelic experiments and treatments into two groups: mentally sound volunteers and people who were mentally unstable. Peter Stafford summarizes what Cohen found out:

Not one case of addiction was reported, nor any deaths from toxic effects. Among those who volunteered for LSD or mescaline experiments, a major or prolonged psychological complication almost never occurred. In this group, only one instance of a psychotic reaction lasting longer than two days was reported, and there were no suicides. Among the mentally ill, however, prolonged psychotic states were induced in “one out of every 550 patients”. In this group, “one in 830 attempted suicide”, and one carried the attempt through (Stafford 1992: 21).

This survey gives the impression that for any person without mental problems there is a very low risk of triggering a psychosis and no risk of suicide involved in taking LSD. However, it has to mentioned that the test subjects had all been informed that they received a drug, they were all — in some way or the other — prepared for the drug experience, and they all had a guide who helped them in case they had a bad trip.

An example that shows how traumatic uninformed administration of LSD can be, is an incident that happened during an investigation to find out whether and how it was possible to modify an individual’s behavior with LSD carried out by the CIA in 1953. During a private meeting with members of the Army Chemical Corps, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, who was the head of the investigation, passed around a glass of Cointreau which – unknown to the others – he had spiked with LSD. Among those who partook from Gottlieb’s glass was Dr. Frank Olson, who after the drug experience became deeply depressed. Reluctantly Olson agreed to enter a mental hospital. The night before the psychological treatment started he died after crashing through a window on the tenth floor of a hotel (cf. Stafford 1992: 47f.).

If we look at Cohen’s study and Olson’s suicide we can deduce three things: The use of LSD might be dangerous for you: 1. if you have mental problems, 2. if you are not mentally prepared for it or not informed that you took it at all, 3. if there is no guide that can help you to avoid a horror trip which may trigger a psychosis. (Dangerous “suicide programs” from your subconscious which are normally suppressed might be released during an LSD experience; programs which you cannot control.)

In the 60s Leary, Ginsberg, Kesey and all the others who wanted to “turn on the whole world” did not seem to notice that there is a big difference between experienced intellectuals like Aldous Huxley, philosopher Gerald Heard, or psychologist Frank Barron, who took LSD trying to systematically cultivate states of “abnormal” consciousness, and an inexperienced teenager who takes LSD just because it is considered to be “hip,” not knowing what to expect at all. Leary thought that LSD was good for everybody just because he and his friends (supposedly) had only positive experiences with it. It was only in the 80s, when Leary realized that psychedelics were “not appropriate for democratization, or even socialization.” He realized that “the Huxley-Heard-Barron elitist position was ethically correct and [...] the Ginsberg-Leary activism was naively democratic”(Stafford 1992: 25). He had to face the fact that not everybody had the genetic and mental prerequisites to profit from an LSD experience. Leary then admitted that his error in 1963 — this was the year when he started his LSD campaign — was “to overestimate the effect of psychological set and environmental setting”(ibid.). That is why he “failed to understand the enormous genetic variation in human neurology”(ibid.). In the 80s, he admitted that he had been blind to the potential dangers of LSD because in the course of his experiments there was not one enduring “bad trip” or “scandalous freak out.” In his flamboyant style Leary warned people that


Leary never really stopped to encourage people to take psychedelics until the day he died. Although in the 70s his focus shifted from drugs to computers and space migration, he nevertheless continued to give lectures on psychedelic drugs. However, in the 70s, Leary gave up his plan to “turn on the whole world,” but directed his teachings only to those people who were “ready to take the next step in human evolution”(cf. NP 90). Leary realized that LSD was not the magic cure-all (for social, political and neurological problems) he had thought it was. He realized that it was time to change and start looking for new methods to help us escape the narrow reality tunnels imposed on us by authorities. It was time to start looking for new methods that could help us to produce the ecstatic experience, that is, the experience of attaining freedom from all limitations.

As a final comment on this chapter I want to mention that now, in the 90s, LSD is making a comeback and young people, especially people form the “techno-rave” scene, are re-discovering Leary’s “psychedelic guide books” from the 60s. The shelves in alternative bookstores in San Francisco and London, for example, are packed with new editions of Leary’s books from the 60s.

3. Exo-Psychology (the 70s)

Technology governs change in human affairs while culture guards continuity. Hence technology is always disruptive and creates a crisis for culture. (Daniel Bell)[34]

The Exo-Psychology phase is a transitional stage between Leary’s LSD-phase (the 60s) in which Leary focuses on “inner space,” and his computer-phase (the 80s and 90s) in which he focuses on cyberspace. The prefix “exo” in Exo-Psychology indicates that this “new branch of science” created by Leary has to do with things that are outside of ourselves: outer space. Exo-Psychology, which is also the title of one of Leary’s books, is concerned with space migration. It is the “psychology of post-terrestrial existence”(Info 1). In the 70s, Leary was convinced that there was a trend in biological evolution on this planet from water, to shoreline, to land, to atmospheric flight. In his Exo-Psychology phase, Leary takes one step away from Eastern Philosophy and a step towards technology (especially computer technology, genetics, and biochemistry).

Leary describes his Exo-Psychology theory as “Science-Fiction, Philosophy of Science, PSY PHY.” In order to understand what Leary means with this description let us look how he defines the term science fiction. In the introduction to Neurologic (Leary 1996, first published in 1973), Leary explains that, on the one hand, his theories are scientific because they are based on empirical data from physics, physiology, pharmacology, genetics, behaviorist psychology, and neurology. On the other hand, they are fictional in a Wittgensteinian sense that all theories and speculations beyond the mathematical propositions of natural science are subjective (cf. Leary 1996: 7). Leary points out that his Exo-Psychology theory does not give “final answers” but it can give us a lot of pleasure and make us feel free (cf. ibid.).

In the 70s, Leary had to spent a lot of time in prison. This period of time — when Leary was cut off from society and unable to change the system that kept him in prison — gave him a different, more pessimistic perspective on life. Life on planet earth did not seem to evolve to higher levels of being like Leary had expected. The 60s revolution was over. Leary realized that it was just not enough to “look within,” “return to nature,” and assume that “all is one”( cf. Info 68f.). In Leary’s opinion the hippies had made an important step in human evolution: They knew how to “accept the rapture of direct sensation” and lead a hedonic life style; they had learned how to control their nervous systems and how to change social imprints and conditioning. But, according to Leary, the ability to change your imprints is useless if you do not know what to re-imprint.

In Exo-Psychology, Leary describes the drug culture of the 60s as “wingless butterflies” who were “spaced out”, “high”, but “with no place to go” (cf. Info 61). What Leary means is that you just cannot go on living in the moment forever. He points out that the hippies had evolved “beyond terrestrial attachments” and “detached themselves from larval symbols” but their problem was that they had no direction in life (cf. Info 67). Where should they go? What should they re-imprint into their nervous systems? In his rather disgruntled state of mind Leary wrote that many of the ex-hippies tried to escape this existential vacuum by “grasping at any transcendental straw – magic, occultism, chanting, witchcraft, telepathy, guru-ism, mystical Christianity [...] the endless variety of oriental charlatanism”(Info 68), but it was all in vain because “inner space is a dead end”(cf. ibid.). According to Leary, the hippies’ tragic flaw was that they rejected science and technology. Leary argues that things like psychedelic drugs, the DNA structure, and also new types of technology for space-travel were not discovered by sheer chance. They would show us the way to the next phase in human evolution bringing us one step closer to our final destination, that is, the final destination of life.[35]

In his Exo-Psychology works, Leary suggests that the course of evolution of life on this planet is predetermined and that practically all scientific discoveries would indicate that the next step in human evolution is space migration. In The Intelligence Agents (1979, 1996), Leary writes that in the course of history the “genetic frontier” (the best developed culture in terms of technology and intelligence) has moved from the East to the West. East to West means past to future. According to Leary, the East (India, China) was the genetic frontier 3000 years ago. In the sixteenth century, the Enlightenment, Europe was the genetic frontier. In 1976, the West Coast of North America was the genetic frontier (cf. Leary 1996: 177ff.). (Leary calls this area the Sun Belt. The Sun Belt encompasses a crescent of “Migrating Higher Intelligence that stretches from Mountain View, California at the Northwest; through Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico; to Cape Canaveral, Florida at the Southwest.”) The West Coast of America would be the last terrestrial frontier; from there we would move to outer space (cf. ibid.). To put it in a nutshell: For Leary, technological innovation means intelligence and independence. West means evolution and change. The “genetic runway” along which gene-pools “accelerate to Escape Velocity” runs from East to West.

Now how is the next phase of human evolution going to look like? What is the aim of life? What is our final destination? How do we get there? In his Exo-Psychology theory, Leary gives answers to these questions. He offers us a model of the evolution of humanity and life in general which is supposed show us the way to a better future and (of course) higher levels of consciousness.

3.1. S.M.I.²L.E. to fuse with the Higher Intelligence

According to Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, we have come to a point in human evolution where all the “terrestrial goals” — the most important of which are bio-survival, territorial expansion, national security, technological efficiency, and “consumer-cultural television homogeneity” — have more or less been achieved (cf. NP 142). At the same time, centralized civilization has produced various technologies which seem to “point us upwards away from the heavy pull of gravity.” Leary suggests that new developments for space-flight as well as the discovery of psychedelic drugs (which would enable us to experience a world where gravity does not exist, thus preparing us for life in outer space) are an indication that there is a trend in biological evolution on this planet from water, to shoreline, to land, to atmospheric flight (outer space, the “new frontier”). In Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, political and cultural phenomena like war, enslavement, or centralization are seen as “necessary preludes” to the next phase in human evolution which is space migration.

According to Leary, the nature of human evolution is paradoxical. For example, there is the Centralization Paradox. Although centralization limits our freedom, it would be necessary to link up in centralized collectives if we want to attain “the ultimate freedom of space existence” and “the velocity to escape the planet.” Without centralized governments and a “diligent, competent, mechanically efficient middle-class” we would not be able to mobilize the technologies we need for space migration. The same paradox could be found if we look at the phenomenon of war. Leary explains that wars – especially the two World Wars and the Cold War – seem absurd “until we understand that the genetic purpose of the conflict[s] was to stimulate the development of radar, rocketry, synthetic chemistry, atomic fission, [..] and, most important, computers[...]” (NP 141). Leary argues that centralization, wars, and the consumer-cultural TV homogeneity of our post-industrial society are all dead ends. However, they are inevitable steps to get to the next phase in human evolution which is space migration.

Anyway, why should we migrate to space at all? According to Leary, the main reason for space migration is not overpopulation, or a shortage of energy. In his Exo-Psychology theory, Leary suggests that somewhere in outer space there is a “Higher Intelligence” which, a long time ago, sent a message to our planet in form of the DNA, the genetic code. He writes, “[L]ife was seeded on this womb-planet in form of amino-acid templates designed to be activated by solar radiation and to unfold in a series of genetic molts and metamorphoses”(Info 16). Now what does that mean? It means that actually all life forms on our planet are “alien immigrants from outer space” and that evolution of the various species unfolds according to the same pre-determined plan. According to Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, life is designed to migrate from the “womb-planet” (Leary speculates that there might be other unknown womb-planets with life on it), seek this Higher Intelligence, and try to fuse with “Hir”[36] again. The tactics in order to achieve this final goal would be S.M.I.²L.E., which means “space migration” (=S.M.), “intelligence increase” (=I.²), and “life extension” (=L.E.) (cf. NP 143–45). (This acronym can be found printed several times on every page of every single book that Leary wrote in the 70s to remind the reader of the purpose of life.) Intelligence increase would be a necessary prerequisite for space migration and life extension. Psychedelic drugs would help us to enhance our intelligence, and it would not take long until scientists are able to decipher the genetic (DNA) code and extend our life spans.

In “H.O.M.E.S. A Real Estate Proposal,” an essay co-written with cyberneticist George A. Koopman (NP 157–70), Leary suggests the construction of “space H.O.M.E.s” (High Orbital Mini Earths) as “a practical step to explore and activate new resources – internal and external to the nervous system” (NP 159). These space H.O.M.E.s would “open up unexploited territories, new energy sources, and new stimulation for the brain” (ibid.). As far as the “unexploited” territories are concerned, Leary explains that

We must not cringe from the word “exploitation.” At every stage of information/energy the laws of nature seem to require new and more complex engagements of elements to accelerate the evolutionary process. We must exploit every new level of energy in order to build the structures to reach the next cycle. The embryo ruthlessly exploits the supplies of the maternal body. The derogatory flavor of the word “exploit” has been added by reactionary political groups who wish to slow down the expansion of energy. Rhetoric aside, there has never been an example of a surviving-evolving species which did not use all energies available to it. Nothing can stop the surge towards Space Migration (NP 159).

It should be mentioned here that Leary’s idea of the construction of a space colony that opens up unexploited territories was inspired by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill’s book The High Frontier and the L-5 Society (cf. NP 157). In The High Frontier, O’Neill calls for the establishment of an orbital colony equidistant between the earth and the moon at a gravitationally stable point known as Larange Point 5. In response to O’Neill’s call the L-5 Society was founded (cf. Dery 1996: 36). The members of this society believed that the L-5 colony would help humanity to escape from ecological pollution, resource depletion, poverty, and collectivism (cf. ibid.). The difference between the vision of the L-5 Society and Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory is that the L-5 Society was interested only in the social, ecological, and material implications of space migration, whereas Leary saw space migration as a necessary step towards self-realization, enlightenment, immortality, and “fusion with the Higher Intelligence.”

In Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, the evolution of life and humanity (past, as well as future) is described in terms of the evolution of the nervous system. Now, how did the human nervous system evolve and how is it structured? Leary assumes that our nervous systems consist of eight “potential circuits”, or “gears”, or “mini-brains” which have evolved in the course of evolution. Leary describes the evolution of the nervous system in his model of the Eight Circuits of Consciousness. Before an outline of Leary’s model of the Eight Circuits of Consciousness is given, it is necessary to make a short excursion into the field of conditioning psychology. Leary says that if we want to understand his Exo-psychology theory and the model of the Eight Circuits of Consciousness we first have to understand the concept of imprinting and that there is a crucial difference between the phenomenon of imprinting and other forms of learning, especially conditioning. (The reader already knows that Leary is interested in the biological phenomenon of “neural imprinting” very much, and that he thinks that imprints can be suspended and changed by using certain psychoactive chemicals.)

3.2. Imprinting and conditioning

The understanding of the concepts of “imprinting” and “conditioning” and the difference between these two phenomena is the crucial point in Leary’s Exo-psychology theory. Leary uses these concepts to explain the miserable socio-political situation on our planet, and to back his hypothesis that the only way for a “domesticated middle-class person” to arbitrarily change his or her “reality” is to apply psychedelic drugs.

In Exo-Psychology, Leary explains that it is a well known fact in psychology and ethology (the comparative study of animal behavior) that there are certain brief “critical periods” in a human being’s life during which imprints are made. One of these critical periods is the time soon after a baby or animal is born. If the baby does not develop a basic feeling of trust towards his or her mother during this short “critical period” — which in Leary’s jargon means that the infant’s first circuit is negatively imprinted to his/her mother — he/she will never be able to develop this basic feeling of trust (see Bio-survival circuit). The same applies to animals. If birds are handled by an experimenter during their first few hours of life, they thereafter react to him/her and to other human beings as they normally would to their parents, and they refect their real parents. During this critical period, which is the first of several critical periods in a person’s life, a basic attitude of trust or distrust is set up which will ever after trigger approach or avoidance (cf. Info 40).

What is the difference between imprinting and conditioning? The three major forms of conditioning are: Classical conditioning (main exponent: Ivan Pavlov), Instrumental conditioning, and Operant conditioning (main exponent: B. F. Skinner). Leary explains that they are forms of learning which are based on repeated reward and punishment. Imprinting, however, is a form of learning which does not require repetition. “The most fascinating aspect of imprinting is this; the original selection of the external stimulus [e.g. mother] which triggers off the pre-designed response [e.g. trust] does not derive from a normal learning process but a short exposure during a brief, specific ‘critical period’[...]”(Info 40). In contrast to all other learning processes, imprinting is immediate and — which is even more important — irreversible. As Leary put it: “The imprint requires no repeated reward or punishment. The neural fix is permanent. Only bio-chemical shock [drugs or trauma] can loosen the neuro-umbilical lines. The conditioned association, on the contrary, wanes and disappears with lack of repetition [my italics]” (Info 51). To help his readers to get a better understanding of the primary role of the imprint and the secondary role of the conditioned association Leary mentions Ivan Pavlov’s classic study with a dog as an example (everybody knows this experiment): In Pavlov’s study the flow of saliva in the dog’s mouth is an unconditioned, unlearned response. The imprint hooks an unconditioned response (flow of saliva) to an external stimulus, or releaser mechanism (food placed in the dog’s mouth), so that the dog always automatically produces saliva when food is in his mouth. However, the association between the sight of food and the food in the mouth, or between a ringing bell and food, has to be learned by the dog. This is where conditioning comes in. Conditioned stimuli like the ringing bell are associated with the imprinted stimulus which is the food in the dog’s mouth.

It is important to mention that, according to Leary, conditioning cannot change an imprint. “Trying to recondition an imprint with reward-punishment is like dropping a single grain of sand on a forged steel pattern,” as Leary expresses it. By applying psychological conditioning techniques we would be able to temporarily change a person’s behavior. However, as soon as the conditioned person is left to his/her own devices he/she would drift back to the “magnetism of the imprint” and to his/her “genetic-robot style” which is determined by the DNA (cf. Info 54). Leary argues that psychedelics can help us to “recast” the different circuits. With psychedelics we can re-imprint new realities and activate new, higher circuits of consciousness. How exactly do the these higher circuits Leary talks about look like?[37]

3.3. The Eight Circuits of Consciousness

I have already mentioned that Leary assumes that our nervous systems consist of eight “potential circuits”, or “gears”, or “mini-brains.” Where are these “mini-brains” located and what is their function? According to Leary, four of these “brains” are in the left lobe, which is usually active, and are concerned with our terrestrial survival; four are “extraterrestrial,” reside in the ‘silent’ or inactive right lobe, and are for use in our future evolution (cf. Leary 1988: 88). In his model of the Eight Circuits of Consciousness, which is described in his books Neuropolitics (1977a) and Exo-Psychology (1977b), Leary explains how these circuits, or mini-brains, evolved in the course of evolution. Each of these eight circuits corresponds to one of the eight neurological phases in evolution. In Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory the definition of consciousness is the same as in the theory of the Seven Levels of consciousness. Consciousness is defined as “energy received by structure” (in the human being the structures are the neural circuits and their anatomical connections).

(The reader will notice that this model of The Eight Circuits of Consciousness is an elaboration of the model of the Seven Levels of Consciousness.[38] Leary reversed the numerical order of the different levels and split up the Mental-social-symbolic Level.)

1. The Bio-Survival Circuit (trust/distrust):

In the essay “From Outer World to Inner World to Inner Space to Outer Space” (NP 87–99), written together with philosopher and science fiction writer Robert Anton Wilson, Leary explains this circuit, or brain, which can be found in the most primitive life forms and is the first circuit activated in the newborn baby as follows:

This marine or vegetative brain was the first to evolve (billion years ago) and is the first activated at birth. It programs perception onto an either-or grid divided into nurturing-helpful Things (which it approaches) and noxious-dangerous Things (which it flees, or attacks). The imprinting of this circuit sets up the basic attitude of trust or suspicion which will last for life (NP 88).

When Leary talks about the new born child, in which the first brain is activated, he puts very much emphasis on the process of imprinting (that is why I have explained this process in a rather detailed way). He points out that the first imprinting process, during which a basic attitude of trust or distrust is set up, will ever after trigger approach or avoidance. If the baby does not develop a basic feeling of trust towards his/her mother during the short critical period during which the first imprint is made, he/she will never be able to develop this basic feeling of trust towards her mother and he/she will never be able to fully trust his/her partner(s) and friends in life either.

2. The Emotional-Territorial Circuit (assertiveness/submissiveness):

According to Leary, this second, more advanced “bio-computer” formed when vertebrates appeared and began to compete for territory (perhaps 500,000,000 B.C.). In the individual, this circuit, which corresponds to a bigger “tunnel reality” than the reality of Circuit One, is activated when “the DNA master-tape triggers the metamorphosis from crawling to walking” (cf. NP 88). Leary explains:

As every parent knows, the toddler is no longer a passive (bio-vegetative) infant but a mammalian politician, full of physical (and emotional) territorial demands, quick to meddle in family business and decision-making. Again the first imprint on this circuit remains constant for life (unless brainwashed) and identifies the stimuli which automatically trigger dominant, aggressive behavior or submissive, cooperative behavior. When we say a person is behaving emotionally, egoistically or ‘like a two-year-old’, we mean that SHe [sic] is blindly following one of the robot imprints on this circuit (NP 88f.).

In popular speech the second circuit is called “ego.” The “ego” is “the second circuit mammalian sense of status (importance-unimportance) in the pack or tribe” (NP 89). Leary points out that politicians live in a second circuit “reality tunnel” because their only goals are territorial expansion and control over others.

3. The Dexterity-Symbolism Circuit (cleverness/clumsiness):

Leary writes that this brain was formed when “hominoid types began to differentiate from other primate stock” (circa 4–5 million years ago). It is activated in the individual when the older child begins “handling artifacts and sending/receiving laryngeal signals (human speech units)”(NP 89). This circuit discloses the symbolic, conceptual and linguistic world. Leary writes, “If the environment is stimulating to the third circuit, the child takes a ‘bright’ imprint and becomes dextrous and articulate; if the environment is made of deliberately stupid people, the child takes a ‘dump’ imprint, i.e. remains more or less at a stage of symbol-blindness”(ibid.). This circuit determines our “normal modes of artifact-manufacture” and conceptual thought. It is made for understanding and using language and thinking logically-scientifically. As Leary puts it, “The third brain or ‘mind’ is hooked into human culture and deals with life through a matrix of human made gadgets and human-created symbolism”(ibid.).

According to Leary, it is the Third Brain that created the mechanical civilization which began in the Neolithic and climaxed in Henry Ford’s assembly line. The Third Brain also produced Behaviorist psychology (not Humanistic psychology!), and Newtonian mechanistic ‘visible’ physics (not Einsteinian concepts!). By pointing out the limitations of the Third Brain’s mechanistic-Behavioristic way of thinking, Leary wants to show that a person who lives in a Third Circuit “tunnel reality” will never be able to understand how to change basic imprints, that is, to change a his/her “reality.”

According to Leary, the “crowning philosophy of the Third Circuit society” is Operant conditioning, or “Skinnerism,” as Leary calls it (B. F. Skinner is the founder of the school of Operant conditioning)[39]. Leary defines Operant conditioning as “the final philosophic statement of the puritanical protestant-ethic manipulators who dominated the world for 400 years up to Hiroshima”(Info 49).

Leary defines two main groups of technocrats who are trying to use “Third Circuit conditioning techniques” to change the behavior of their fellow citizens: “Right-wing punitive coercers” and “liberal rewarders”. According to Leary, the attempts of both of these groups of bureaucrats are futile because they attempt to re-condition rather than re-imprint:

Punitive coercion [the method applied by right-wing punitive coercers] works only as long as the threat remains and thus requires a police state.
The liberal social psychologists [liberal rewarders] believe that they can change behavior by democratic, supportive, egalitarian education methods. Head-start programs. Peace Corps. [...] Tutoring. Scholarship payments. Insight therapies. Mental health methods.
These liberal approaches fail to effect change and serve only to support the “humanist” welfare bureaucracy (Info 51f.).

Leary argues that a regime based on social conditioning can only work if the government psychologists have total control over the citizenry and if the method of conditioning is a government secret. Such a “social conditioning regime” would not be possible in a democracy where minority groups can campaign against and publicly discuss the techniques being used (cf. Info 53f.).

4. The Socio-Sexual Circuit:

This circuit determines what in a specific culture is considered to be sexually normal and morally right. Leary describes how it evolved:

The fourth brain was formed when hominid packs evolved into societies and programmed specific sex-roles for their members (circa 30,000 B. C.). In the individual it is activated at puberty when the DNA signals trigger the glandular release of sexual neurochemicals and the metamorphosis to adulthood begins.[...] The fourth brain, dealing with the transmission of tribal or ethnic culture across generations, introduces the fourth dimension, time – binding cultures (NP 89–91).

As far as sex-roles are concerned, Leary holds that our first sexual experiences imprint a characteristic sex-role which, again, is bio-chemically bonded and remains constant for life (unless brain-washing or chemical re-imprinting is accomplished). The sex role imprinted in a person’s brain does not always coincide with that which is accepted by society. Leary points out that perversions, fetishes, and other eccentric sexual imprints are usually defined as “sinful” by the local tribe (cf. NP 90).

In most people these four circuits are the only networks of the brain that are activated. Leary notes that this is the reason why their way of thinking is rather inflexible. Their logic follows the primitive either/or binary structures of the four circuits: forward/backward = trust/distrust, up/down = assertiveness/submissiveness, clever/clumsy, good/evil. Leary calls these circuits “terrestrial” because “they have evolved on, and have been shaped by, the gravitational, climatic and energy conditions determining survival and reproduction of gene-pools on a planet like ours.” (Leary hypothesizes that there might be more intelligent individuals evolving in space who would definitely develop circuits different from our “inflexibly Euclidean” ones.)

According to Leary, each of the first four circuits can be arbitrarily activated by a certain type of drug (first circuit drug: opiates; second circuit drug: alcohol; third circuit drug: coffee, fourth circuit drug: sexual hormones produdced by adolescents in puberty). Leary calls these drugs “terrestrial drugs.” Leary explains that none of these “terrestrial drugs” can change basic biochemical imprints. They can only trigger behavioral patterns and thought patterns that were wired into the nervous system during the first stages of imprint vulnerability.

Let us now look at the four “extraterrestrial circuits” and the “extraterrestrial drugs” that can activate them. The extraterrestrial circuits are levels of reality beyond the socially conditioned. Leary notes that the experience of these extraterrestrial circuits/realities normally causes confusion and fear among people who have never before transcended the four basic larval reality-tunnels, because they are not designed to be understood by “larval psychology” (cf. Info 60).

What are the four extraterrestrial circuits?

5. The Neurosomatic Circuit:

Leary explains this circuit as follows:

When this fifth “body-brain” is activated, flat Euclidiean figure-ground configurations explode multi-dimensionally. Gestalt shift, in McLuhan’s terms, from linear visual space to all-encompassing sensory space. A hedonic turn-on occurs. [...]
This fifth brain began to appear about 4,000 years ago in the first leisure-class civilization and has been increasing statistically in recent centuries (even before the Drug Revolution), a fact demonstrated by the hedonic art of India, China, Rome and other affluent societies. [...]
The opening and imprinting of this circuit has been the preoccupation of “technicians of the occult” – Tantric shamans and hatha yogis. While the fifth tunnel-reality can be achieved by sensory deprivation, social isolation, physiological stress or severe shock (ceremonial terror tactics, as practiced by such rascal-gurus as Don Juan Matus [described in Carlos Castaneda’s books] or Aleister Crowley), it has traditionally been reserved to the educated aristocracy of leisure societies who have solved the four terrestrial survival problems.
About 20,000 years ago, the specific fifth brain neurotransmitter was discovered by shamans [...]. It is, of course, cannabis (NP 90).

As far as the evolutionary aspect of this circuit is concerned, Leary points out that it is no accident that people who use cannabis (the drug that opens up the Fifth Circuit) refer to their neural states as “high” or “spaced out.” For Leary, the transcendence of gravitational, linear, either-or, Euclidean, planetary orientations (circuits 1–4), experienced with the help of cannabis, is part of our neurological preparation for the inevitable migration off our home planet. According to Leary, the West Coast of the US (California, the last terrestrial frontier) is the area with the highest percentage of people living in a Fifth Circuit post-political, hedonistic reality (cf. Leary 1996: 176–79).

However, this hedonistic level of consciousness is just a transitional stage which prepares us for the next circuit which is exclusively designed for post terrestrial existence.

6. The Neuroelectric-Metaprogramming Circuit:

This is the level of consciousness on which the nervous system becomes aware of itself, apart from the “gravitational reality-maps” (circuits 1–4) and from circuit-five-body-rapture. Leary calls this state of consciousness “consciousness of abstracting” (a term borrowed from the semanticist Alfred Korzybski), or “meta-programming,” that is, awareness of programming one’s programming (this term was coined by John Lilly in Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Bio-Computer). When we activate this circuit we become aware that what we accepted as reality is actually just a program ‘fed’ into our bio-computers (brains). The person who activates this “Einsteinian, relativistic” circuit realizes that the Euclidian, Newtonian, Aristotelian reality-maps are just three among billions of possible programs or models of experience (cf. NP 93). On this level of consciousness “mammalian politics”, which have to do power struggles among “terrestrial humanity” are seen as static and artificial.

Leary explains that the nervous system is constructed in a way that it is capable of self-reflection. That is why it is capable of understanding and controlling its own functioning. What this means is that everybody can create his/her own realities if he/she knows how the nervous system works. As far as Leary is concerned, it is no longer necessary to describe the opening of this circuit with the paradoxical terms used in Eastern philosophy — “Non-Self,” “No-Mind,” or “White Light of the Void.” The Einstein revolution in physics, discoveries in neurology and pharmacology, and computer linguistics would allow us to describe the Sixth Circuit functioning in operational and functional terms as the nervous system metaprogramming the nervous system or serially re-imprinting itself (cf. NP 94).

What exactly happens when we access the Neuroelectric Circuit? When the Sixth Circuit is activated, the nervous system “real-izes” that it is a “transceiver” (transmitter and receiver) for bio-electric frequencies (electromagnetic signals). Leary says that the use of the Neuroelectric Circuit had to await the development of electronic and atomic technology to provide the language and models that allow us to understand and activate it (cf. Info 112). Only now that we begin to understand and use invisible electromagnetic processes could we learn how to operate our own circuitry.

The evolutionary function of the Sixth Circuit would be communication – not normal (Third Circuit) speech or symbols on paper, but communication on the electromagnetic level, at the speed of light, between two or more “contelligences” operating at the Sixth Circuit. (Leary uses the term “contelligence,” a combination of consciousness-intelligence, to describe people who are on a higher level of consciousness.) Since Circuit-Six-communication is electronic, it demands that we are able to use computers. Leary explains that this mode of communication, which will enable us to connect our nervous systems with computers, will be necessary for our interstellar existence: “Electro-magnetic-gravitational processes are the meat and potatoes of galactic life. The vibratory-transceiver nature of the brain, useless to the larval [a person who uses only circuits 1–4], is very necessary in space. Telepathy, Brain-computer links. Brain-radio connections” (Info 113).

Leary points out that one of the most important characteristics of Circuit-Six-communication is that it (necessarily) is erotic. Leary explains: “[Six-Circuit-communication] is Brain-Intercourse. Electronic sexuality. Reception and transmission of thought waves. The erotics of resonance. The entire universe is gently, rhythmically, joyously vibrating. Cosmic intercourse”(NP 121). Only if we take the crucial step from “larval earth-life” to the next stage (Circuit Six) would we be able to experience what “Higher Love” means, namely the “electronic connection of nervous systems, making love to each other over galactic distances of neurological time [sich einander liebend über galaktische Distanzen neurologischer Zeit]”(translated back into English from the German version of Leary’s Neurologic, which was first published in 1973; Leary 1996: 42).

Is there a specific drug that can open the Neuroelectric Circuit? Yes, the drug that makes us aware that the things that normally seem to be solid are actually electromagnetic vibrations is LSD. However, Leary warns us that

Neuro-electric drugs like LSD are not designed for terrestrial life and are rightly considered dangerous by larval moralists. The Sixth Circuit is designed for extra-terrestrial life – and its activation by drugs at the present time is in preparation for migration. Neurophysical drugs can be used by neurologicians to “cure” ineffective childhood imprints. LSD-type drugs used for treatment or for pre-flight training should be administered by knowledgeable experts who understand the principles of re-imprinting and who have experiential control of their own nervous system. The hedonic “party” use of LSD is a risky business [my italics]”(Info 114).

(This quotation shows that in the 70s Leary apparently realized that LSD is a dangerous drug.)

7. The Neurogenetic Circuit:

By activating the sixth circuit we escape the narrow reality-tunnels of the four terrestrial circuits. However, the sixth circuit does not enable us to receive signals from within the individual neuron where the DNA is located. In order to be able to read the DNA code we would have to activate the Neurogenetic Circuit. Leary believes that the first people who were able to receive signals from the DNA were yogis (Hindus, Sufis, etc) who spoke of re-experiencing past lives, reincarnation, and immortality. According to Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, the DNA memory contains information about the whole evolution (our past lives as well as the future of evolution).

What is the function of the DNA? According to Leary, the growth and function of the nervous system as well as the rest of the body is predetermined by the DNA code: “DNA designs and constructs the nervous system and maintains supervisory and re-constructive communication with somatic cells and neurons mediated by RNA”(Info 120). Leary considers the DNA code to be something which is immortal because it is the only thing that has survived in the long chain of evolution. The goal of life, in Leary’s Exo-psychology theory, is immortality or fusion with the Higher Intelligence. Leary argues that immortality is attained through control of the DNA. Psychedelic drugs like LSD would enable the nervous system to decipher the genetic code. By identifying with this “genetic intelligence”, which means that we imprint the DNA reality in our nervous system, we would be able to become immortal (cf. Info 122).

8. The Neuroatomic Circuit:

The “genetic intelligence”(seventh circuit) is “the immortal, invisible soul that outlives the body,” writes Leary. But where does the DNA come from? Who created the DNA? Leary admits that he does not have a final answer to this question. He speculates that the answer to this question could be found if we go further on into the microscopic physical world. In Exo-Psycholgy, he suggests that sub-nuclear events inside each atom determine the elemental processes of life:

On the basis of the scientific evidence now at hand, the best answer to the Higher Intelligence Creator question comes from the frontiers of nuclear physics and quantum mechanics. The basic energies, the meta-physiological contelligence is probably located within the nucleus of the atom. [...] Physicists are currently studying the sub-nuclear realm to identify the high-velocity particles which make up the language of energy. [...] Exo-psychology seeks to provide the concepts which allow nuclear physicists to personalize sub-nuclear events [by activating the Eighth Circuit] so that they can be experienced” (Info 126).

In order to back his speculations Leary quotes physicist and philosopher Nick Herbert who argues that the sub-atomic world must be “non-local”, which means that it does not obey the laws of space and time and that in this world the speed of light barrier is transcended (cf. Info 130f.). (The interested reader is referred to “Bell’s theorem,” a principle of quantum physics, which is used by to back the idea of “non-locality”(see Capra 1982)).

In Exo-Psychology, Leary explains that at the Neuroatomic level the basic energies which comprise all structure in the universe are available for management: “The metaphysiological contelligence constructs atoms, DNA chains, molecules, neurons; sculpts, designs, architects all forms of matter by manipulating nuclear particles and gravitational force fields”(Info 129). The “Neuroatomic Contelligence” no longer needs bodies, neurons, and DNA designs. It is a “metaphysiological brain.” According to Leary, this metaphysiological contelligence is the Higher Intelligence (God?) which created life and the DNA. It is the entire “cosmic brain” (just as the DNA helix is the local brain guiding planetary evolution). It is “ourselves-in-the-future” (cf. NP 98).

According to Leary, science (nuclear physics, genetics) and technology (computers, psychedelics, thechnology for space travel) will help us to reach this final stage of evolution, but we have still a long way to go.

3.4. Neuropolitics: Representative government replaced by an “electronic nervous system”

In Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, in which the evolution of the nervous system from its terrestrial-mechanical stages to its post-terrestrial-individualistic stages is described, technology plays an important role. The function of technology is that it aids our evolution. It helps us to activate the higher circuits of the nervous system. Leary puts much emphasis on the sixth stage of evolution, in which the Neuroelectric Circuit is activated.

I have already mentioned that the function of the sixth circuit is communication – not normal speech or symbols on paper, but communication on the electromagnetic level between two or more people operating at the sixth circuit. According to Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, electronic-communication technology (telephone, TV, computer networks, etc) can help us to activate the Neuroelectric Circuit.

In Neuropolitics, we find to interesting essays which deal with the political implications of electronic-communication-techology. The essays are titled “The Fall of Representative Government”(NP 45f.) and “The Return of Individual Sovereignty”(NP 47–49) (both written in 1973 when Leary was in prison). In “The Fall of Representative Government,” Leary, who has always been against governments, argues that with the emergence of electronic-communication-technology any form of representative government (one person is selected to represent others) becomes outmoded. As Leary put it: “Representative government as practiced today is a brief and now outmoded historical phase designed to bridge the period between the rise of industrial states and the emergence of globe-linking electrical-electronic communication”(NP 45). According to Leary, the process of selecting representatives to govern is a relic of the horse-drawn slave-holding culture which produced the American Constitution. Leary argues that the articles in the American Constitution which set up the mechanics of government are dangerously archaic:

Senators elected every six years to represent two million people? A president elected every four years to represent 140 million people? This slow, cumbersome system was necessary when it took two weeks for the news to travel from New Orleans to Boston. Representative government by strangers and political party partisanship is outdated. Most Americans have never met their representative – indeed do not know his name. Government by law is an unworkable bureaucratic cliche(NP 46).

Leary tries to make us aware that we have all been “robot-trained” – with the help of history books which are self-serving and the print media which are used by political leaders to manipulate us – to believe that elective democracy is something sacred. He wants us to realize that the times of centralized governments, when politicians were able to control people with the help of technology, are over. Politicians are no longer be able to keep the methods they apply secret from the people. Technology can be used to reduce individual freedom and to enhance the power of politicians controlling centralized governments, but only if the people do not know the methods applied by authoritarian technocrats. One dissident electronic-media expert, however, would be able to “jam the system”(cf. NP 47). Leary argues that more and more people are learning to use the electronic media for their personal empowerment. As more and more people are learning to use electronic technology to govern themselves according to the laws of information, competitive politics are dying (cf. NP 49).

Instead of the “outdated and cumbersome” American political system in which one president elected every four years represented 140 million people, Leary suggests a new political model:

The political model should be based on the nervous system: 140 billion neurons each hooked to an electric network. Electronic communication makes possible direct participatory democracy. Every citizen has a voting card which he or she inserts in voting machine and central computer registers and harmonize the messages from every component part. Neurological politics eliminates parties, politicians, campaigns, campaign expenditures. The citizen votes like a neuron fires when it has a signal to communicate. The voices of the citizenry continually inform civil service technicians who carry out the will, not of the majority (a vicious and suicidal elevation of the mediocrity) but of each citizen (NP 46).

Leary’s model of an “electronic nervous system” is based on the assumption that every citizen has a personal computer which is connected to a worldwide electronic network (cf. ibid.). This worldwide electronic network in which every individual can express his or her opinion would help us to create a new governmental structure which “gets the country alive and laughing again”(cf. NP 49). However, Leary does not explain in detail how this governmental system without parties and politicians is supposed to function.

As far as the idea of a global “electronic nervous system” is concerned, it has to mentioned that Leary seems to have been influenced by Global Village prophet Marshall McLuhan very much. It was already in the early 60s when McLuhan came up with the idea that electric circuitry is an extension of the human nervous system (McLuhan 1964: 1). This idea is based on the concept that “all media [i.e. technologies] are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical”(McLuhan 1967)[40]. For example, the photo is an extension of the eye, the wheel an extension of the foot, etc. “With electricity [radio, television, computers, etc] we extend our nervous systems globally, instantly interrelating every human experience”(ibid.). McLuhan predicted that electronic technology would reshape and restructure patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal lives. By involving us in other people’s actions and thoughts, electronic technology would end psychic, social, economic, and political self-centeredness (cf. ibid.). A new form of “politics” would be emerging because “the living room has become a voting booth”(ibid.) “In the electric age, when our nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action,” writes McLuhan in Understanding Media(McLuhan 1964: 4). According to McLuhan, every new medium introduces a change of human perception (focus-shift from one sense to other), association and action. This means that our ways of thinking and perceiving the world are always determined by the medium we use. McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message” which expresses his idea that it is the medium, not the content, that changes people’s world views.

Leary does not mention McLuhan in his two essays that deal with the effects that electronic technology has on society and the individual. However, he uses McLuhan’s famous phrase in a slightly different form: “The medium is the evolutionary message”(NP 49).

How did people in the 1970s react to Leary’s early projections about computers and networking? His ideas about a global electronic network that connects people throughout the world elicited only ridicule. “He was literally laughed off the sets of TV news shows in the 1970s for predicting that most human beings would some day be sending one another ‘messages through their word processors’ and that the world would be linked together through a new ‘electronic nervous system’,” writes Douglas Rushkoff, writer and friend of Leary’s (Rushkoff, Douglas. E-mail to the author. 11 Sep 1997)[41]. As far as Leary’s advocacy for personal computers and the Internet in the 80s and 90s is concerned, many people in the cyber-movement (discussed in the next main chapter) and kids at rave-parties (Leary gave lectures on rave-parties) considered Leary to be only “jumping on their bandwagon” even though he was one of the first advocates of computers (cf. Rushkoff “Loved by Leary.” Psychedelic Island Views. Vol. 2, Issue 2, (1996) p. 47.). They did not know that Leary began talking about computers as a means of culture-crossing communication already in the early 70s. (I want to make the reader aware that this was even before Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak marketed the first personal computer in 1976.)

3.5. Better living through technology/The impact of Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory

In the late 70s and early 80s, Leary’s model of the Eight Levels of Consciousness and his vision of a post-terrestrial existence free from all limits (free from social and political limitations, as well as the limits of space, time, and the body) influenced quite a few “psychedelic philosophers”(discussed below) and a considerable number of young people interested in altered states of consciousness. Many young people in the early 80s, however, were not only interested in the drug-aspect of Leary’s theory. They felt that Leary, by including technology into his vision of the future, helped them to define the new generation they were part of. Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory offered these people who had decided to “leave the flower-power 60s behind” a new way to live with technology, to make it theirs. In the eyes of these people, Leary resolved the dichotomy between spirituality (the “inner quest”) and science/technology (the “outer quest”). In Exo-Psychology and Neuropolitics, he shows that technology is not intrinsically evil; it can have a liberating effect as well. In The Intelligence Agents, Leary suggests that we should look westward for change because the East is stagnating. Leary was the one who made young psychedelic trippers and anti-technology-oriented (ex-) hippies aware of the fact that drugs were only a part of the continuing evolution of the human species towards enlightenment, and that the evolutionary purpose of technology was to help us on our “spiritual path” towards freedom, enlightenment, and immortality.

As far as psychedelic philosophers who were inspired by Leary’s Eight Circuit model are concerned, there are at least two writers that have to be mentioned here: Robert Anton Wilson and Antero Alli. Both of these writers are not mainstream writers. Like Leary’s books, their books could be placed somewhere between science fiction, psychology, sociology, philosophy, New Age and “underground.” Robert Anton Wilson – who was a longtime collaborator with Leary and, like Leary, is a spokesman for the psychedelic culture — talks about Leary’s model of the Eight Circuits of Consciousness in several of his books, for example in Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (Wilson 1997, first published in 1977) and Quantum Psychology (Wilson 1996). He even wrote one book, Prometheus Rising (Wilson 1983), that deals exclusively with Leary’s Eight Circuit model. By relating it to a great number of theories from the fields of psychology, philosophy, and atomic physics and adding new ideas about how to increase one’s intelligence, Wilson develops Leary’s model further. Leary claims that Robert Anton Wilson has interpreted his theories better than anybody else (cf. Stafford 1992: III-30). Wilson was influenced by Leary’s Eight Circuit model very much. Now that Leary is dead Wilson continues to spread Leary’s ideas. At the TRANSCENDANCE-conference in Brithton/England, in 1997, for example, Wilson spent half of his 90-minute talk on explaining Leary’s Eight Circuit model.[42]

Angel Tech – A modern Shaman’s Guide to Reality Selection (Alli 1990), written by Anterro Alli, is also based on Leary’s Eight Circuit model and offers the reader a great variety of ways to expand one’s consciousness (not only the chemical solution that Leary suggests). The aim of the books I have mentioned in the last two paragraphs is basically the same as Leary’s, namely to enable the individual to create his or her own realities.

It is hard to say how many young people were influenced by Leary’s Eight Circuit model in the 1970s. Of course, there were some of the (ex-)hippies who still read Leary’s books from the 60s. However, from the fact that Leary was not released from prison before 1976 and that his Exo-psychology works did not appear before 1977 it could be concluded that not many people knew what Leary was doing in the early 70s at all. Furthermore, the “LSD-boom” was over, so there was no need for an LSD-guru any more. But what about the late 70s when Leary went on lecture tours again? In Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds (Mystic Fire Video 1978), a documentary on the Beat poets, we can see that there was a considerable number of artists, students and people who were in some way associated with the Beat poets, who read Leary’s Exo-Psychology books. After his release from prison Leary spent a lot of time with the Beat poets. Whenever they gave seminars, the “Evolutionary Agent” Leary was also there lecturing on space migration, intelligence increase, and life extension. Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds (Mystic Fire Video 1978) shows one of these seminars with Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, and other Beat poets.

In the 80s and 90s, Leary did not talk about his Exo-Psychology theory much any more[43]. However, in the 80s and 90s many young people became interested in this theory because they felt that Leary, by reconciling spirituality with science and technology, helped them to define the new techno-generation they were part of. In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary calls these people who grew up using computers to communicate and create their own digital realities “cyberpunks,” or the “New Breed.” (I will discuss the general characteristics of this new generation in the last main chapter of this paper.) I now want to talk about two prominent spokespeople of the cyberpunk counterculture who have been influenced by Leary’s Exo-Psychology.

One important spokesman of cyberculture who was inspired by Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory is R. U. Sirius (a.k.a. Ken Gofmann), the cofounder and original editor-in-chief of the first cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000, who has been called “a head on the Mt. Rushmore of cyberculture”(DD 241). (Since R. U. Sirius will also play an important role in the last main chapter of my paper I want to talk a little bit about his background here.)

In contrast to most of the people in the psychedelic movement of the 60s and 70s, Sirius has never been a technophobe. According to Sirius, there have always been two strands in the psychedelic counterculture. Sirius explains: “A majority strand of people felt overwhelmed by the ugliness of Western civilization and wanted to get as much distance from it as possible. But about ten percent always consisted of ‘sci-fi’ types. For instance, Digger manifestoes of ’67 and ’68 anticipated ‘machines of loving grace’ that would usher in a post-scarcity culture”(quoted in Stafford 1992: III – 46).[44] In the 70s, Sirius felt that he rather belonged to the sci-fi types than to the technophobes. In a Washington Post interview in 1992, Sirius recalled, “We wanted to believe in this cybernetic vision, that the machines would do it for us. And I maintained that vision, somewhere in the back of my head” (quoted in Dery 1996: 35). In 1980, Sirius had a revealing LSD-experience which assured him that his intuition was right. This experience caused him to change his life. Cultural critic Mark Dery describes Sirius’ “metamorphosis”:

A fateful acid trip in 1980, days after John Lennon’s death, somehow assured him of “the all-rightness of everything” – a revelation that spurred him to leave the sixties behind and catch up with the emerging computer culture around him. Delving into Scientific American, he soon concluded that the Diggers’ anarchist utopia of universal leisure and infinite abundance lay within reach; the revolution, if it happened, would be brought about not by political radicals but by the high-tech breakthroughs of capitalist visionaries. But why settle for a cybernetic Eden when the promise of prosthetic godhood lay somewhere over the rainbow? Inspired by Timothy Leary’s premonitions in the seventies of “space migration” to off-world colonies, Sirius incorporated a high-tech take on the human potential movement into his vision of robotopia [my italics]” (ibid.).

It was Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory that convinced Sirius that technology would not only help us to create a society where work is obsolete and all of us are watched over by “machines of loving grace,” but also enable us to attain enlightenment, to free ourselves from the limits of space, time, and the body.

In 1984, Sirius founded a psychedelic magazine that later became Mondo 2000. Subtitled A Space Age Newspaper of Psychedelics, Science, Human Potential, Irreverence and Modern Art, it was called High Frontiers. High Frontiers is a name borrowed from O’Neill’s book The High Frontier, which deals with the construction of a space colony. High Frontiers evolved into Reality Hackers, which evolved into Mondo 2000. In the course of time the magazine became more and more high-tech. The focus of the magazine shifted from the coverage of psychedelics, in High Frontiers, to the coverage of cyberculture, in Mondo 2000. (Leary was one of the contributing editors of this magazine.) In Mondo 2000 we find articles about smart drugs (legal drugs that are supposed to enhance your intelligence), virtual reality, cyberpunk, interactive media, aphrodisiacs, artificial life, nanotechnology[45], brain implants, life extension, etc.

According to Sirius, now, in the 90s, scientists are developing technologies (e.g., nanotechnology) that help us to understand and “real-ize” Leary’s Eight Circuit model. In Design for Dying (Leary’s last book which he wrote together with Sirius), Sirius argues that most of Leary’s predictions in his Eight Circuit model about future scientific/technological and cultural developments have actually become true:

During his later days, he [Leary] didn’t talk about it [the Eight Circuit model] much. I think as he embraced “chaos”, he wanted to distance himself from the tidiness of the model. After all, did any of us live perfect, smooth, Circuit-Six, psychedelic, yogic lives? Or did we not, occasionally, get drunk[...] But when I think about it, I’m impressed, particularly with how the evolution of the technoculture since the 1970s matches his predictions of future evolution.
In a clear gelatin capsule: Circuit Six, the neuroelectric circuit, is already a pop culture phenomenon, otherwise known as cyberculture, wired, the Web, the Net, cyberspace, etc. The notion of living in electricity is with us. More important, it surprised our culture by preceding Circuit Seven, the neurogenetic circuit – biotechnology as a popular phenomenon, which is just slowly coming into its own. When you hear about garage gene hacking, you’ll know we’ve arrived. And who would have guessed that nanotechnology mainman Eric Drexler would come along and begin mapping Circuit Eight, the neuroatomic level, human empowerment on the molecular/atomic level (Leary 1997: 91)?

I think now it becomes clear why in Mondo 2000 Leary (along with Global village prophet McLuhan and science fiction writer William Gibson) is portrayed as one of the most important pioneers of cyberspace (see Mondo 2000, issues 1 and 4). In his Exo-Psychology theory Leary laid the ideological foundation for the cyber-movement of the 80s and 90s.

There is another prominent spokesperson of cyberculture who has been influenced by Leary’s Exo-Psychology. His name is Bruce Eisner. Eisner is the founder of a “psychedelic-cybernetic organization” called Island Foundation and the author of Ecstasy: The MDMA Story. The Island Foundation (see is an organization of individuals dedicated to the creation of a psychedelic culture. The group is named after English novelist Aldous Huxley’s last novel, Island, about a utopian island, “an imaginary place that nurtured and supported the psychedelic vision”(ibid.). Island Foundation’s mission is to “foster the creation of a new culture based on the visions and ideals catalyzed by the psychedelic experience”(ibid.). Island Foundation seeks as its members those who have gained a vision of a more sensible and peaceful way of living together through the use of psychedelic and other min-altering substances, as well as other methods of altering consciousness, like computers and the Internet.

It was Leary’s The Intelligence Agents (and Huxley’s novel Island) that inspired Eisner to form the Island Foundation (cf. Leary also made Eisner aware of the promising possibilities of computers and the striking similarity between the psychedelic experience, during which one feels that he/she leaves his/her narrow reality tunnel and enters a multi-choice reality labyrinth, and the hypertext universe of the Internet, which gives one the same feeling (Eisner, Bruce. Psychedelic Island Views Vol. 2, Issue 2, 1996: p.4). I think it is worth mentioning here that a psilocybin-trip in October 1977 was the trigger that allowed Eisner to “perceive new connections.” On this psychedelic trip Eisner realized that Leary was right: “East means stagnation. West means evolution and change.” Psychedelics and technology can help us to make the world a better place to live in. This discovery lead him to found the Island Foundation (cf. ibid.). (Notice the striking similarity between Eisner’s and Sirius’ life-changing experiences. It was the psychedelic experience that changed their lives.)

The Island Group expresses its opinions and policies in a magazine called Psychedelic Island Views, edited by Bruce Eisner. We only have to take a look at the second issue of Psychedelic Island Views, which is dedicated to Timothy Leary (this issue was published soon after Leary died), and we see that Leary plays an important role in this organization. This issue features several articles about Leary. Just like R.U. Sirius, Bruce Eisner, who wrote two of these articles, praises Leary as the psychedelic and cybernetic pioneer nonpareil (cf. Eisner, Bruce. Psychedelic Island Views. Vol.2, Issue 2, 1996: 5–9).

As a final comment on this chapter I would like to point out that both Mondo 2000 and the Island Group have their origins in California. (The Island Foundation has its headquaters in Santa Cruz; Mondo 2000 is based in Berkeley) Why is that so? Is California really the “genetic frontier”?

4. Chaos & Cyberculture (the 80s and 90s)

Filtered through the computer matrix, all reality becomes patterns of information: [...] Just as the later Taoists of ancient China made a yin/yang cosmology that encompassed sex, cooking, weather, painting, architecture, martial arts, etc, so too the computer culture interprets all knowable reality as transmissible information. (Michael Heim)[46]

Since the early 70s Leary has been fascinated by the idea that the brain functions like a computer and that we can change the programs in our “bio-computers” (brains) if we know the language in which these programs are written (the code). There is one book, written by psychoanalyst and LSD researcher John Lilly, in 1967, which Leary repeatedly mentions in several of his works and which seems to have sparked this fascination with the computer-brain metaphor. This book is titled Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Bio-Computer (Lilly 1967).

It was not until 1983 that Leary bought his first personal computer and discovered how computers really worked – that the language of computers is based on the principle of 0 and 1 (the transistors in a computer can be switched ON or OFF, representing 1 and 0 in the logical sequence). When Leary learned that in a computer every program and every piece of information is stored in zeros and ones and that theoretically any kind of information – be it a sound, picture, word, etc – can be translated into the digital language of 0 and 1, he felt that a “new world” with seemingly endless possibilities was revealed to him. Leary called this world the “Info world” or “Quantum world” (I will explain the term “Quantum world” when I talk about Leary’s Quantum-Psychology). He began spending around five hours a day in this new world on the other side of the screen translating his thoughts to digital codes and screen images (cf. CC 3). It did not take long until Leary felt he was able to “pilot his brain” through the newly discovered “digital spaces” and that the exercises in translating his thoughts to digital codes actually helped him to understand how his brain works. In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary writes that computers taught him that the human mind (i.e., processes in the brain) could be perfectly explained with this principle of 0 and 1, and that computers helped him to control the processes in his brain and create his own digital realities (cf. ibid.).

Leary discovered that computers were actually very similar to LSD. More than that, in an interview with P. Johnston in 1986, Leary said that the computer is a technology for brain change that is even more effective than LSD: “Computers are the most subversive thing I’ve ever done. [...] Computers are more addictive than heroin. [...] People need some way to activate, boot up, and change disks in their minds. In the 60s we needed LSD to expand reality and examine our stereotypes. With computers as our mirrors LSD might not be necessary now” (quoted in Bukatman 1993: 139). This discovery led Leary to proclaim that “The PC is the LSD of the 90s” (CC cover-page). Leary found out that his experiences with this new medium were far from being unique and original but seemed to be part of an enormous cultural metamorphoses. As a result of personal computers, millions of people, especially the young generation, would no longer be satisfied “to peer like passive infants through the Terrarium wall [TV screen] into ScreenLand [sic] filled with cyberstars like Bill and Hillary and Boris and Sadam and Madonna and Beavis and Butt-Head”(CC 4). People would begin to learn how to “enter and navigate in this world behind the screen” and avoid television dictatorship. Computers would change the young generation’s appreciation for their own intrinsic worth and ability to alter reality. Leary had a vision of the emergence of a “new humanism” based on questioning authority, independent thinking, and the empowerment of computers and other technologies. A new global “cybernetic culture” would be emerging, creating a post-political society based on individual freedom.

These discoveries had a profound impact on Leary’s theories of the 80s and 90s in which Leary takes his idea of the brain as computer even one step further. In Chaos & Cyberculture, which is a collection of Leary’s most important essays about the effects of computers and drugs on the individual and society, he suggests that the whole universe consists of “zeros and ones, bits of off/on information.” Matter is “frozen information”(cf. CC 7). The computer would help the individual to dissolve, or deconstruct, all rigid thought systems/structures (political, social, and philosophical) into zeros and ones, and create new structures/systems with the freed elements — structures that are more fun than the old ones. Furthermore, we would be beginning to “understand ourselves as information processes,” and in the near future there would be technologies available that allow us to manipulate matter as information, which means that we can exist without our blood-and-flesh bodies and become immortal. Leary tries to back these ideas with a bold interpretation of quantum physics and defines a new branch of science called Quantum Psychology (human thought and behavior described in terms of the language of computers). Quantum Psychology would help us to understand the basic nature of the universe and how our brains operate. However, we would not able to apply the principles of quantum physics without computers, which Leary sees as extensions of our brains which help us to navigate through the meaningless, disordered, chaotic universe and to design ourselves individual realities. As far as the correlation of personal computers and personal freedom is concerned, Leary says that freedom in any country could be measured perfectly by the percentage of personal computers in the hands of individuals (cf. CC 84).

In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary also presents a theory on the evolution of countercultures from the 50s to the 90s (the Beat Generation, the hippies, etc) and defines a new counterculture — Leary is even talking about a new species which constitutes a new gene pool — called the “cyberpunks,” or “new breed.” As far as the political implications of the use of personal computers and electronic media (especially TV and the Internet) is concerned, Leary gives various examples that demonstrate that these new technologies have introduced profound changes in our society. Leary argues that personal computers, TV, and the Internet encouraged young people from all over the world to think for themselves, question authority, and start a freedom revolution which lead to the fall of various political regimes in the late 80s (fall of the Berlin Wall, Czech hard-line regime toppled, etc). According to Leary, this “digital freedom revolution” is still going on. Leary was very optimistic as far as the liberating effect of electronic technology and the future of this freedom movement is concerned. In the near future we would all find ourselves living in a post-political society that functions according to the cybernetic principles of self-organization – a society where the person who automatically obeys and never questions authority will be the “problem person” and the intelligent person who knows how to live in symbiosis with technology and who thinks for him-/herself (the cyberpunk) will be the norm. Furthermore, we would soon be able to “download” our mind/brain into a computer, which means that we do not need our bodies to survive any more and that we can become immortal.

Before I describe the basic principles of Quantum Psychology, I want to shortly comment on the language Leary uses (so the reader will not be confused when I start talking about things like the “info-starved tri-brain amphibian”). The language Leary uses in Chaos & Cyberculture is a mixture of computer-language (e.g. to boot up a computer), psychedelic metaphors (which he uses to describe the experience of cyberspace), and neologisms like “tri-brain” (which I will explain later), or “electronic haiku” (movie trailer).

(Keep in mind that we are dealing here not with a scientific theory based on objective facts, but with a theory that is based on the assumption that ”the limits of our reality are determined by the limits of our imagination.”)

4.1. Quantum Psychology

Chaos & Cyberculture, the book that serves as the main source for my description of Leary’s Quantum Psychology, consists of texts that were first published in a wide array of publications, ranging from obscure underground ’zines to university journals; from New Age/New Edge periodicals (e.g. Mondo 2000) to mainstream Sunday supplements. Roughly speaking, one third of these texts deals with computers, one third with countercultures, and one third with “chaos-drugs” (psychedelic drugs). Although these texts deal with a variety of topics there is one core theory underlying all of them. Leary calls this theory Quantum Psychology. Basically, it could be said that there are three concepts that constitute the principles of Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory:

  1. The philosophy of Chaos: The basic nature of the universe is extreme complexity popularly known as chaos.(4.1.1)

  2. Quantum physics and the “user-friendly Quantum universe:” The basic elements of the universe are bits or quanta of off/on information. In the Quantum universe everything is continually changing , relative to viewpoint, and dependent on our psychological attitude and info-technology (e.g. computers). Computers help us to make the chaotic universe “user-friendly,” which means we can digitize, store and create our own realities.(4.1.2)

  3. The info-starved “tri-brain amphibian”: The brain can be understood as a digital computer that converts every sensory stimulation into “quantum realities,” into directories and files of 0/1 signals. The info-starved brain requires more and more input of digital data in order to keep growing towards maturity. When the human brain enters a symbiotic relationship with a computer we get the “tri-brain”: digital brain – body matter – digital screen.(4.1.3)

4.1.1. The Philosophy of Chaos

In the preface to Chaos & Cyberculture, which is an essay called “The Eternal Philosophy of Chaos,” Leary gives examples from both eastern philosophies and western science that are supposed to show that the basic nature of the universe is chaos, inexplicable disorder “maybe a trillion times too complex to be grasped by the human mind” (cf. CC xiii). Leary says that there are be basically two ways of dealing with the chaotic universe that surrounds us: to accept chaos and “go with the flow,” or to be afraid of chaos and cling to the idea/illusion of stability. Hindus, Buddhists, and Taoists, for example, accept the fact that they live in a world of inexplicable complexity and try to learn how to “go with the flow.” They belong to the group of people that have realized that you cannot control chaos but you can learn how to “surf the waves of chaos” and get a lot of fun out of experiencing parts of the chaotic universe (cf. CC xiv).

The majority of people on our planet, however, are afraid to face chaos. They are afraid to face the fact that safety and order is only an illusion. According to Leary, this fear of chaos explains why for centuries there existed a fanatic taboo against scientific thinking. He points out that “Galileo got busted” and “Bruno got the Vatican microwave” for showing that the sun did not circle the earth, just “because religious and political chaos-phobes wanted the nice, tidy, comfy universe to cuddle around them” (CC xiv).[47] The standard method with which religious and political “control freaks” would try to tame and domesticate the impossible complexity that surrounds us is to “invent a few ‘tooth-fairy’ Gods” (the more infantile the better) and to “lay down a few childish, simple rules like ‘Honor you father and your mother’” or “You passively obey. You pray. You work.”(ibid.). According to Leary, scientific thinking and thinking for oneself has always been considered “heretical, treasonous, blasphemous, a capital crime, the ultimate nightmare” by religious and political fanatics. However, you cannot hide the truth forever. Leary points out that, in the nineteenth and twentieth century, scientists – with the help of technical extensions of the human sensorium like telescopes and microscopes — began to specify the “truly spooky” nature of the complexities around us and within us (e.g., they found out that the brain is a network of hundred billion neurons, each neuron being connected to ten thousand other neurons). According to Leary, among the various scientific theories which have been advanced in the last hundred years there is one theory that changed human life more than any other – quantum physics. Leary argues that equations of quantum physics perfectly describe the chaotic universe we live in:

The universe described by Einstein and the nuclear physicists is alien and terrifying. Chaotic. Quantum physics is quite literally a wild acid trip! It postulates an hallucinatory Alice–in-Wonderland universe in which everything is changing. As Heisenberg and Jimmy Hendrix said, “Nothing is certain except uncertainty.” Matter is energy. Energy is matter at various forms of acceleration. Particles dissolve into waves. There is no up or down in a four-dimensional movie. It all depends on your attitude, i.e. your angle of approach to the real worlds of chaotics (CC 45).

(Leary does not describe the theories he boldly interprets at all. It is obvious that he does not expect his readers to seriously study nuclear physics.) Leary suggests that, in addition to describing the chaos that surrounds us, quantum physics also presents a couple of startling concepts that help us to understand how our brains operate and what the basic elements of the universe are — which leads us to the next basic concept of Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory.

4.1.2. Quantum physics and the “user-friendly” Quantum universe

Before I present Leary’s bold interpretation of quantum physics, let us look at how Leary defines the term “quantum” which is the singular of “quanta”: “The word ‘quantum’ refers to a bit, an elemental unit. The word QUANTUM used as an adjective indicates that the subject is defined in terms of numbers, clusters of digitized elements, units of information”[48](Info v).

Now how does Leary interpret quantum physics? According to Leary, the quantum physicists (Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck etc) discovered that we live in a universe made up of bits of information, “a universe of elemental off/on digital bits (particles) that swirl in chaotic clouds, occasionally clustering together in geometrically logical temporary configurations” (cf. CC 44). In the universe described by the quantum physicists solid Newtonian matter becomes waves or clouds of 0/1, yin/yang, on/off probabilities[49](cf. CC 45). According to Leary, the equations of quantum physics suggest that solid matter is nothing but “frozen information” (cf. CC 6). (This means we do not have the body-mind dualism any more; everything is information.) Realities could be explained metaphorically as screens of digitized patterns (cf. Info 2). The universe, according to the equations of quantum physics, would be best described as a “digital information processor with subprograms and temporary ROM states, megas called galaxies, maxis called stars, minis called planets, micros called organisms or Macintosh, and nanos called molecules and atoms” (CC 44). All of these programs are perpetually in states of evolution, that is, continually “running.” Furthermore, quantum theory suggests that the behavior of atomic particles, and thus of the universe, is governed by a single programming rule: it is nothing but “if-then algorithms”(cf. CC 14). Leary explains that the application of quantum physics produced vacuum tubes, transistors, integrated circuits, lasers, radio, television, computers, etc — all the important gadgets that can move around information (cf. CC 6f.).

Quantum psychology, the “new branch of science based on the principles of quantum physics,” would allow us to redefine the most important terms of classical metaphysics. For example, Leary suggests that a new definition of “spiritual” could be “digital.” If we look at some of the traditional attributes of the word “spiritual” (mythic, magical, ethereal, incorporeal, intangible, nonmaterial, ideal) we see that this is the exact definition of electronic-digital (cf. CC 5).

Leary argues that the quantum physicists were explaining ideas that can only be fully understood now, in the electronic-information age. The knowledge that we live in a chaotic universe consisting of digital bits of information – Leary calls this universe Quantum universe — is useless for the individual human as long as he/she does not have tools that enable him/her to make that chaotic universe “user-friendly.” In order to make the Quantum universe user-friendly the individual would need electrical appliances that allow him/her to cruise around in the “chaotic post-Newtonian information ocean,” to think and communicate in the digital language of light. Leary also calls the digital language of light “lingua franca of the universe” or “binary dialect of the galaxies and atoms”(cf. CC 45). Leary points out that, although Einstein and his colleagues developed theories that were to change the world, they were not able to apply their theories to their own lives. They did not have computers that allowed them to digitize, store, create, and communicate their individual realities. In “Quantum Jumps, Your Macintosh, and you,” Leary explains this paradoxical situation the quantum physicists were in:

They [the quantum physicists] expressed their unsettling theories in complex equations written on chalkboards with chalk. [...They] thought and communicated with a neolithic tool: chalk marks on the blackboard of the cave. The paradox was this: Einstein and his brilliant colleagues could not experience or operate or communicate at a quantum-electronic level. In a sense they were idiot savants, able to produce equations about chaos and relativity without being able to maintain interpersonal cyberrelationships with others (CC 45).

For Leary, the application of the laws of quantum physics has to do with freedom. The universe that quantum physicists describe would open up endless possibilities for the individual. Electrical “quantum-appliances,” like computers, interactive TV, or virtual reality gear (TV goggles and quadrophonic sound systems to create 3-D computer graphic worlds), would enable us to apply the principles of quantum physics so we can pilot ourselves through the chaotic universe — Leary calls this “chaos engineering” — and create 3-D digital realities where we can meet with people from the other side of the planet. More than that, the application of quantum physics would allow us to “real-ize” the realities of our dreams, the limits of which are determined only by the limits of our imagination. This means that we would actually be able to free ourselves from any kind of structure (political, social, personal) that is imposed on us. Information technology would enable us to dissolve existing structures and create new forms, new (virtual) realities with the freed elements. We would be beginning to understand ourselves as information processes, and soon there would be new technologies available that allow us to manipulate matter as information. This would mean that we can finally free ourselves from our heavy, clumsy, mortal bodies and become immortal.

Now that we are learning to experience what Nils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg could only dream of, it is clear that “the great intellectual challenge of the 20th century was to produce an inexpensive appliance that would make the chaotic universe ‘user friendly,’ which would allow the individual human to decode, digitize, store, process and reflect the sup-programs which make up his/her personal realities” (ibid.). (What is the great challenge of the next century? According to Leary, the great challenge of the 21st century is to develop technologies that make the human body immortal and allow us to exist as electronic life-forms on computer networks.)

4.1.3. The info-starved “tri-brain amphibian”

We already know that since the early 1960s Leary has always been interested in finding out how the human brain operates and how we can use our brains in the most sufficient way. In all of his theories Leary argues that the best way to understand and describe the evolution of the human race is in terms of how well we have learned to operate our brains. In “Our Brain” (CC 35–39), for example, he suggests that since the 1950s, when people began to use electrical appliances (television, radio), there has been an enormous acceleration of brain power. In just the last ten years new developments in technology, especially computer technology, would have multiplied the ability to use our brains by a thousandfold (!). The best way to understand how efficiently we are using our brains would be to clock it in rpm – realities per minute. Now that we have television (hundreds of programs to choose), the internet and other new information technologies, our brains would be operating at a hundred times more rpm than the brains of people living thirty or forty years ago – and still we would be hungry for more.

It should be mentioned here that, according to Leary, historical technological development is following an exponential law. This means that there is a general tendency that there will be more basic breakthroughs (both in scientific and technological applications) in each generation than in the previous generation. Leary argues that this acceleration of technological development is in direct relation to an acceleration in human brain power/intelligence. In other words, although people in the Stone Age had basically the same brain as we have they were by far not as intelligent as we are because they did not have the technologies that helped them to effectively use their brains. On the inside cover of Chaos & Cyberculture, this relationship between technological innovation and human brain power is presented in form of a graph that shows an enormous acceleration of brain power since the 1950s.

Leary’s explanation for this enormous acceleration of brain power and the brain’s insatiable hunger for more data is an evolutionary one: As our brain evolves, it develops new and more effective vehicles and information-processing devices in order to feed its insatiable hunger for stimulation (television in the 50s, audio tapes in the 60s, personal computers in the 70s, etc). A person with a cybernetic post-industrial brain would no longer be content “to watch a tiring two-hour movie, or sit drinking tea and reading the London Times for two hours,” like people did in the mechanical age (cf. CC 14). “The cybernetic brain expects more data in much less time”, Leary explains (ibid.). The cybernetic brain “loves overload”(ibid.). For the information-age cyberperson the best stuff he/she sees in the movies would be the three-minute trailers with two cuts per second, which Leary calls “electronic haikus.” Leary argues that the use of electronic technology has elevated us to a new genetic status; a new species, the “homo sapiens electronicus,” has emerged (cf. CC 45). According to Leary, the growing appetite for digital data can now be recognized as a species need. Leary points out that the brain of the homo sapiens electronicus “needs electrons (and psychoactive chemicals) like the body needs oxygen” (ibid.). Like any adolescent organ, the human brain would require an enormous, continual supply of chemical and electronic data to keep growing towards maturity. To illustrate this evolutionary phenomenon Leary describes how his own brain has evolved since he started using computers:

In the last eight years the dendritic metabolism of my information organ (brain) seems to have undergone a dramatic change. My eyes have become two hungry mouths pressed against the Terrarium window [the screen between the material world, the Terrarium, and cyberspace] through which electronic pulses reach the receptive areas of my brain. My brain seems to require a daily input of several billion bytes of digital (light-speed) information.[...My] Personal Computer has changed my brain into an output organ emitting, discharging digital information through the Terrarium window into ScreenLand.
Just as my heart is programmed to pump blood, my sinewy brain is now to fire ,launch, transmit, beam thoughts through the electronic window into Cyberia [cyberspace](CC 4).

In this quotation Leary describes his brain as a computer, an organ that processes digital information. Leary’s “Info-organ” has entered a symbiosis with the digital screen of a computer monitor.

According to Leary, we were not able to understood how our brains operate before electronic engineers had built computers. The understanding of how the brain works would enable us to construct and inhabit “digital auto-realities,” which means that we can now chose if we want to spend our days in the material-organic world or in the “cyberworld” (cyberspace). For Leary, cyberspace is the more interesting one of the two worlds because it offers more freedom than the material world; in cyberspace the limits of time, space, and the body are perceived as meaningless. According to Leary, more and more people are discovering that cyberspace offers more freedom than the material reality. More and more people are learning to use “cyberwear” (goggles with graphic displays and gloves with sensors that registrate every movement so you can see your “hands” on the graphic display) to navigate around cyberspace like they use the “hardware” of their bodies to navigate around the mechanical-material world, and the way they use spaceships and space suits to navigate around the outer space (cf. CC 4). Leary calls people who are able to live in both the material world and in cyberspace “tri-brain amphibians.” (The word “amphibian” comes from the Greek amphi (double) and bios (life). It is used to describe a life form that is able to live in two different worlds.) The tri-brain consists of digital brain, body matter, and digital screen (cf. ibid.).

As far as the (digital) brain is concerned, Leary argues that for the brain (which he sees as a complex “bio-computer”) screen-realities are not less real than the “material” reality. Leary explains why digital realities are perceived by the brain as real:

All the screen scenes are as real as a kick-in-the-pants as far as our brains are concerned. Our brains have no sense organs and no muscles. [...] To be registered in consciousness, to be ‘realized,’ every sensory stimulation must be deconstructed, minimalized, digitalized. The brain converts every pressure signal from our skins, tickles from our genitals, delectables from our tongues, photons from our eyes, sound waves from our ears, and best of all, electronic buzziness from our screens into quantum realities, into directories and files of 0/1 signals(CC 4).

Body matter, which is the second constituent of the tri-brain, is necessary because the body is equipped with all the sensory input and output ports to bring information into the “neurocomputer”(cf. CC 35). The third constituent of the tri-brain, the digital screen (i.e. the computer), functions as a door to cyberspace and allow us to construct the digital realities we like. Leary describes how this partnership between human brains and computers evolved by comparing it to the biological phenomenon of symbiosis:

In evolving to more physiological complexity, our bodies formed symbioses with armies of digestive bacteria necessary for survival. In similar fashion, our brains are forming neural electronic symbiotic linkups with solid-state computers. [...] At this point in human evolution, more and more people are developing mutually dependent, interactive relationships with their microsystems. When this happens, there comes a moment when the individual is “hooked” and cannot imagine living without the continual interchange of electronic signals between the personal [digital] brain and the personal computer (CC 42f.).

However, the tri-brain amphibian will not neglect his/her body which can offer him/her a lot of pleasure. Leary says that the tri-brain amphibian will not use his/her precious, irreplaceable “fleshware” (body) to do work that can be done better by assembly-line machines. (For example, “[t]he languorous midwestern farmer will don her cybersuit and recline in her hammock in Acapulco operating the automated plough on her Nebraska farm, [and] the Mexican immigrant will recline in his hammock in Acapulco using his cybergear to direct the grape-harvest machines” (CC 5).) But when the brain work is done, the amphibian will take off his “brain clothing” (cybersuits), don body clothes, and enjoy all the pleasures that the body can offer. Leary explains how delightful the experience of the body will be:

When we platonic migrants sweat, it will be in athletic or sensual pleasure. When we exert elbow grease, it will be in some form of painterly flourish or musical riff. When we operate oil-gulping machines, we will joyride for pleasure. [...] Trains, planes, boats will be used only for pleasure cruising [...] Our bodily postures will thus be graceful and proud, our body movements delightful, slow, sensual, lush, erotic, fleshy, carnal vacations from the accelerated, jazzy cyberrealities of cyberspace, where the brain work is done (ibid.).

As far as the quality of face-to-face interactions are concerned, Leary says that for tri-brain amphibian flesh encounters will be rare and thrilling. For the near-future tri-brain person, the quality of a personal appearance in flesh will be “raised to a level of mythic drama” (cf. ibid.).

To sum up, for the tri-brain person experiencing the body is fun, but he/she just cannot imagine living without computers. Why does he/she need this continual interchange of electronic signals between the brain and the personal computer? Why does he/she form this symbiosis with the computer? The answer is simple: Because he/she wants to be free, free to “real-ize” the realities of his/her dreams. The tri-brain person feels that in the material world — which stands for bodily robotic work, political tyranny, and spending half of your life in trains, cars, airplanes or waiting in line if you want get information or meet people — he/she can never reach his/her goals. In cyberspace, however, he/she feels free from practically all the structures that limit him/her — free from dogmatic social structures, free from narrow reality-tunnels that are imposed on him/her, free from the limits of time, space, and body.

What, according to Leary, are the social, political and cultural implications of this new way of living in symbiosis with technology?

4.2. Countercultures (the Beat Generation, the hippies, the cyberpunks/the New Breed)

Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory encourages people to use electronic technology (computers, the Internet, etc) for their personal empowerment. In the 90s Leary updated his old catchphrase “ Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” to “Turn On, Boot Up, Jack In.” Electronic technology would enable us to free ourselves from dogmatic social structures and create our own cyber-realities (cyberspace). More than that, Leary argues that the use of electronic technology has elevated us to a new genetic status. People who grew up using electronic appliances for thinking and communicating would constitute a new species, which Leary calls the New Breed, or the cyberpunks. Leary writes that the New Breed of the 80s and 90s are people who have learned how to use technology to reach their own private goals and change the world to the better. According to Leary, this New Breed is creating a new post-political cybernetic society which is based on personal freedom and functions according to the cybernetic principles of self-organization and feedback (I will explain these principles later). It would be a society that does not operate on the basis of obedience and conformity to dogma — a society based on individual thinking, scientific know-how, quick exchange of facts around feedback networks, high-tech ingenuity, and front-line creativity (cf. PE 4). Leary notes that the youth revolutions of 1989, which, according to Leary, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the resignation of the hard–line regimes in Czechoslovakia and Rumania, are signs how powerful this revolution really is. If we analyse these revolutions we see that the ones who rule the media are the ones who control the country. In an essay called “The Youth Revolutions of the 20th Century” Leary gives an impressive example of a young Chinese schoolboy using media technology to confront a powerful tyranny:

On June 5, 1989, a 19-year old Wang Weilin stood defiantly looking into the barrel of an enormous gun mounted on a tank in Tien An Men Square. He was unarmed. Look at the picture and you see that in his left hand he holds, not a gun or a bomb but his school bookbag and in his right hand his lunch bag. His act was a cybernetic gesture. He and his friends knew that this picture, flashed around the world on TV screens and magazine covers, would be permanently imprinted on the minds of millions (PE 4).

Leary argues that the individual-freedom movement of the late 80s would not have been possible without electronic technology. Thanks to the electronic media, people are able to spread the idea of personal freedom and self-direction across the whole world. According to Leary, the liberation movements in Eastern Europe (in 1989) have their roots in the 50s and 60s in America. Leary points out that the 50s counterculture, the Beat generation, was the first counterculture which broadcast the idea of individual freedom around the world via electronic media, and sparked off a freedom-revolution that is still going on. As Leary put it,

In the 1950s in America, at the height of the television Cold War, there appeared a group of free people who created highly communicable counterculture memes that were to change history.[50] The beats stood for the ecstatic vision and for individual freedom in revolt against all bureaucratic, closed-minded systems. They saw themselves as citizens of the world [...and ] as heirs to the long tradition of intellectual and artistic individualism that goes beyond national boundaries.
What made the beats more effective than any dissident-artist group in human history was the timing. Electronic technology made it possible for their bohemian memes, their images, and their sounds to be broadcast at almost the speed of light around the world. [...] The hippie culture of the 1960s and the current liberation movements in Eastern Europe are indebted to the libertarian dissenting of the ‘fifties counterculture(CC 75).

In the essay “Politics of Ecstasy: The youth revolutions of the 20th century,” Leary notes that “thanks to the spread of the electronic media, the memes of freedom and self-direction have swept the whole world in less than three decades” (PE 4). Like Marshall McLuhan, Leary makes us aware that cultural change involves communication and that the mode of communication determines not just the speed of change but also the nature of change. “The medium is the message of cultural evolution,” Leary writes and gives his explanation of McLuhan’s famous phrase:

The Ten Commandments, chiseled on stone tablets, created a fundamentalist culture that discouraged change and democratic participation. There is one God, the author-creator, and his words are eternally true. This stone-tablet meme carrier spawns a culture ruled by the inerrant “good book” and a priesthood of those who preserve, interpret, and enforce the commandments.
The printing press mass-disseminates memes that create a factory culture run by managers.
The electronic, McLuhanesque meme-signals that produced Woodstock nation and the Berlin Wall deconstruction are more a matter of attitude and style.
The television news has trained us to recognize “the robe-memes” – the feudal pope (or the Iranian mullah) and his solemn piety-reeking priests. We recognize “the suits,” the adult politicians of the industrial age, with their no-nonsense sobriety. We observe “the uniforms,” armed, booted, helmeted (CC 72).

What Leary is saying in the last passage I have just quoted is that television, like a magnifying glass, makes us aware of the ideas and ideologies that are behind the robes, suits, and uniforms of politicians and priests; it would make us recognize how meaningless, foolish, and outdated the ideas that politicians and priests represent really are. Television encourages us not to blindly believe in the things politicians and priests tell us but to think for ourselves.

Leary points out that the post-war Baby Boom generation was the first generation that grew up with television: “From the time they could peer out of the crib the young Baby Boomers of the 50s were exposed to a constant shower of information beaming from screens.” According to Leary, television taught the Baby Boomers to be “reality consumers.” “Before they were ten, their brains were processing more realities per day than their grandparents had confronted in a year,” Leary explains (CC 78). Leary argues that the media that a child grows up with are of crucial importance because between the ages of three and eight “the language circuits of the brain are formatted” (this is the period of imprint vulnerability for everything that has to do with language). This means that the media used in the home of the child has an everlasting influence on the way this person thinks and perceives the world (cf. ibid.).

What happened when the Baby Boomers became teenagers? We all know that they evolved into the hippies of the 60s and started a freedom revolution. Leary describes these teenagers as affluent, self-confident, spoiled consumers, “ready to use their television-radio skills to be imprinted by turning on Bob Dylan, tuning in the Beatles, turning off parents songs, and fine-tuning color screens” (CC 82). Although their attitude was anti-high-tech, the hippies have used the media and electrically powered music to spread their ideas. When the 60s revolution, the LSD-boom, and the Vietnam war were over the hippies became the Yuppies of the late 70s and 80s.

However, the revolution was not over yet because the personal computer entered the ‘game.’ Leary argues that the millions of Americans who experienced the awesome potentialities of the brain via LSD certainly paved the way for the computer society we now live in. According to Leary, many of the people who were involved in the development of the personal computer got their inspiration from psychedelic drug experiences. He suggests that without the psychedelic revolution in the 60s, the personal computer would have been unthinkable. “It’s well known that most of the creative impulse in the software industry, and indeed much of the hardware [...] derived directly form the sixties consciousness movement,” he asserts. “[The Apple cofounder] Steve Jobs went to India, took a lot of acid, studied Buddhism, and came back and said that Edison did more to influence the human race than Buddha. And [Microsoft founder Bill] Gates was a big psychedelic person at Harvard. It makes perfect sense to me that if you activate your brain with psychedelic drugs, the only way you can describe it is electronically”(quoted in Dery 1996: 28). According to Leary, it is no accident that “the term ‘LSD’ was used twice in Time magazine’s cover story about Steve Jobs”(CC 42).

According to Leary, in the early 80s a new generation of young people emerged and continued the freedom revolution of the 60s, using personal computers and the electronic media in a subversive way. Leary points out that this new generation, which grew up creating their own realities with arcade games and personal computers, was the first generation in human history that was able to change electronic patterns on the other side of the screen. Leary believes that this New Breed which, in his opinion, was very much influenced by the ideals of the hippies (individuality, freedom of expression, etc) is responsible for the fall of several repressive political regimes in Europe and Russia in the late 80s and early 90s. By looking at the methods that students in the 60s applied to change the world, the youth in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, South Korea, and China have learned how to lead their freedom revolutions. Leary makes us aware that, again, it was the media that played the crucial role in the transmission of the idea of freedom:

Where did those Chinese students learn these clever methods of grabbing the news screens to express their ideals? Where did they learn the techniques of media savvy to counter the armed forces of the state? From the newsreel films of the American campus protests of the late 1960s, whose ideals are not dead. They were more powerful than ever in China’s Tien An Men Square, as well as in the USSR, where glasnost and perestroika define freedom for the individual (CC 56).

This quotation shows that, for Leary, the whole youth-revolution boils down to one idea: Freedom for the individual. Drop out of all hierarchical structures and create your own realities. Technology can help the individual to liberate him-/herself from authority. In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary calls people who think for themselves, question authority, and create their own realities with the help of computers “cyberpunks.” Since there is a long history behind the term “cyberpunk” I want to take a closer look at it. Who exactly is the cyberpunk? Where does the term come from?

4.2.1. The cyberpunk

In 1984, when William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer came out, a new genre in Science Fiction was born – cyberpunk. In the introduction to this paper I have already explained that cyberpunk escaped from being a literary genre into cultural reality, and that the media, inspired by the street-hardened characters and the new world (cyberspace) created in Gibson’s books, started to call adolescent computer hackers “cyberpunks.”

Now how does Leary define the term “cyberpunk”? According to Leary, there is a whole philosophy and a long history behind this term. Leary says that, in order to understand what the word “cyberpunk,” or “cyber-person” really means, we have to go back to the Greek roots of the term “cybernetics”[51]. Leary explains that the term “cybernetics” comes from the Greek word “kubernetes” which means “pilot” or “steersman”(cf. CC 64). The Hellenic origin of this word is important in that it reflects the Socratic-Platonic traditions of independence and individual self-reliance which, according to Leary, derived from the geographical situation in Greece. In the following quotation Leary explains how the geographical situation in Greece encouraged people to be self-reliant:

The proud little Greek city-states were perched on peninsular fingers wiggling down in the fertile Mediterranean Sea [...]
Mariners of these ancient days had to be bold and resourceful. Sailing the seven seas without maps or navigational equipment, they were forced to develop independence of thought. The self-reliance that these Hellenic pilots developed in their voyages probably carried over to the democratic, inquiring, questioning nature of their land life.
The Athenian cyberpunks, the pilots made their own navigational decisions.
These psychogeographical factors may have contributed to the humanism of the Hellenic religions that emphasized freedom, pagan joy, celebration of life, and speculative thought (CC 64).

But then the Romans took over and translated the word “kubernetes” to “gubernetes” (with the verb form “gubernare”). The Greek word for pilot became the Latin word for governor, “to steer” became “to control.” In Leary’s opinion the word “governor” expresses an attitude of “obedience-control in relationship to self and others” (CC 66). What Leary wants to show with this etymological analysis is that by translating the word “kubernetes” to “gubernetes” the aspect of self-reliance got lost, and that this translation was a semantic manipulation which had a profound impact on how people who used this word thought and behaved. The term “governor” encourages people to think in terms of obedience and control rather than independence and self-reliance. According to Leary, semantic manipulations are quite relevant to the pragmatics of the culture surrounding their usage. Leary quotes French philosopher Michel Foucault who said that

human consciousness – as expressed in speech and images, in self-definition and mutual the authentic locale of the determinant politics of being.... What men and women are born into is only superficially this or that social, legislative, and executive system. Their ambiguous, oppressive birthright is the language, the conceptual categories, the conventions of identification and perception which have evolved and, very largely, atrophied up to the time of their personal and social existence. It is the established but customarily subconscious, unargued constraints of awareness that enslave (CC 65).

With this quotation Leary wants to make us aware that “to remove the means of expressing dissent is to remove the possibility of dissent.” Leary notes that Marshall McLuhan would agree: “If you change the language, you change society.”

As far as the term “cybernetics” is concerned, Leary says that now (in the computer age) that all hierarchical structures in society are dissolving we are returning to the original meaning of “cyber.” People would create new words that express the self-reliance that got lost. As Leary puts it, “The terms ‘cybernetic person’ or ‘cybernaut’ [terms used to describe the person acting in cyberspace] return us to the original meaning of ‘pilot’ and puts [sic] the self-reliant person back in the loop. These words (and the more pop term ‘cyberpunk’) refer to the personalization (and thus the popularization) of knowledge-information technology, to innovative thinking on the part of the individual”(CC 67). Leary describes the cyberpunk as follows:

[A cyberpunk is a] resourceful, skillful individual who accesses and steers knowledge-communication technology toward his/her own private goals, for personal pleasure, profit, principle, or growth”(ibid.).
Cyberpunks are the inventors, innovative writers, technofrontier artists, risk-taking film directors, icon-shifting composers,[...] free-agent scientists, technocreatives, computer visionaries, elegant hackers, [...] neurological test pilots, media explorers – all of those who boldly package and steer ideas out there where no thoughts have gone before (ibid.).

According to Leary, the cyberpunk is a person who uses all available data-input to think for him-/herself and questions authority. He/she is a person who is able to apply the principles of quantum physics, a person who creates his/her own realities. Leary created the cyberpunk code “Think for yourself; question authority”(CC 69).

As far as the ethical aspect of the cyberpunk-way-of-living is concerned, Leary emphasizes that the cyberpunk performs no act of physical violence (cf. ibid.). However, the cyberpunk believes in freedom of information and is willing to go any length to free information, including breaking the law. (“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but information can never hurt you,” Leary says.) The cyberpunk seeks independence, not control over others (cf. ibid.). Now it becomes clear what puts the “punk” in “cyberpunk.” It is the idea of anarchy, rebelliousness, and liberation through technology.

Leary also describes the cyberpunk as modern alchemist and shows that the parallels between the alchemists of the Middle Ages and the cyberpunk computer adepts are be numerous:

Alchemists of the Middle Ages described the construction of magical appliances for viewing future events, or speaking to friends distant or dead. Paracelsus described the construction of a mirror of electrum magicum with such properties [...]
Today, modern alchemists have at their command tools of clarity and power unimagined by their predecessors. Computer screens are magical mirrors, presenting alternate realities at varying degrees of abstraction on command (invocation). Nineteenth-century occult legend Aleister Crowley defines magick – with a k [Crowley’s spelling] — as “the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity to our will.” To this end, the computer is the latter-day lever of Archimedes with which we can move the world (DD 45).

Furthermore, both alchemists of the middle ages and cyberpunks employ knowledge of an arcanum unknown to the population at large, with secret symbols and words of power. Leary explains: “The ‘secret symbols’ comprise the language of computers and mathematics, and the ‘words of power’ instruct the computer operating system to compete awesome tasks”(DD 46). Leary compares the four elements the alchemists believed in (earth, air, fire, and water) with the Tarot’s four suits (wands, cups, swords, and pentacles or disks) with four essential parts of the computer: mouse, RAM chips, electricity, and the disk drives(cf. DD 46f.).

In the essay “The cyberpunk: The individual as reality pilot”(CC 62–70) Leary gives examples of cyberpunks from different periods of history. Some of the most important cyberpunks that Leary mentions are Prometheus, “a technological genius who ‘stole’ fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity”(CC 63), Christoph Columbus who was unsurpassed in charting and finding his way about the unknown seas (cf. CC 68), Andy Warhol, William Gibson, Stanley Kubrik, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak. By giving these examples Leary tries to show that the tradition of the individual who thinks for him-/herself extends to the beginning of recorded history. He reminds us that the very label of our species, Homo sapiens, defines us as “the animals who think” (cf. CC 69). “If our genetic function is computare (“to think”),” Leary hypothesizes, “then it follows that the ages and stages of human history, so far, have been larval or preparatory. After the insectoid phases of submission to gene pools, the mature stage of the human life is the individual who thinks for him/herself” (CC 69).

In Leary’s view we are coming closer and closer to this mature stage of human life. Leary predicts the emergence of a New (Digital) Humanism with an emphasis on independent thinking, individual creativity, and the empowerment of computers and other technologies. The various new electronic technologies that more and more people have access to — modern synthesizers, computers, Internet, etc — would help us to get closer to people and understand ourselves better. They would encourage us to “do our own thing” and help us to access the information we need to realize ourselves, which means that we do not need authorities that tell us what to do any more. Due to the de-centralizing effect of computers and the Internet the mature stage of the human life cycle would soon be reached. Leary predicts that in the cyber society of the 21st century the cyberpunk will be the norm:

In the information-communication civilization of the 21st Century, creativity and mental excellence will be the ethical norm. The world will be too dynamic, complex, diversified, too cross-linked by global immediacies of modern (quantum) communication, for stability of thought or dependability of behavior to be successful. The “good person” in the cybernetic society are the intelligent ones who think for themselves. The “problem person” in the cybernetic society of the 21st Century is the one who automatically obeys, who never questions authority, who acts to protect his/her official status, who placates and politics [sic] rather than thinks independently (CC 63).

As more and more individuals are liberating themselves from the bondage of authoritarian hierarchical management structures, freeing themselves to interact with the world supported by their wits rather than traditional social rules, cybernetic principles of organization would emerge within the social system and transform the conventional social structure into “a fabric whose weave is defined by the sum of interactions of autonomous entities”(cf. CC 51). This means that there will soon be no central government that imposes rigid rules on individuals any more. Democracy – no matter if it is a “capitalist democracy” or a “socialist democracy” — would be a system of government that is obsolete in the cybernetic age. “In the cybernetic age, ‘democracy’ becomes majority mob-rule and the enemy of individual freedom,” Leary explains (CC 72). But would there not be total chaos if there is no central authority that has the power to create law and order, and everybody does whatever he/she wants to do? No. Contrary to the belief that a society that is not based on an authoritarian hierarchical system is nothing but total chaos (disorder), Leary is of the opinion that organizational principles that produce order will arise and create a “self-organizing system” without central government: the “cyber-society.” What exactly are these cybernetic principles of organization Leary is talking about? How can order arise from chaos? How exactly does Leary picture this social fabric whose weave is defined by the sum of interactions of autonomous individuals?

4.2.2. The organizational principles of the “cyber-society”

In order to be able to understand the arguments Leary uses to back his idea of a cyber-society the reader has to have some background knowledge about cybernetics. Since Leary’s explanations of cybernetics are rather short I will first explain the basic concepts of cybernetics and then present Leary’s arguments.

Cybernetics is the study of control and communication processes in living and artificial systems. The cyberneticists — who were mathematicians, neuroscientists, social scientists and engineers — were concerned with describing patterns of communication and control that underlie electronic, mechanical, and biological systems. They clearly distinguished the patterns of organization of a system from its physical structure. This is an important distinction because it allowed them to define patterns of organization (organizational principles) that do not only apply to one particular system, but to all systems, irrespective of their nature (cf. Capra 1997: 51f.).

All the major achievements of cybernetics originated in comparisons between organisms (living systems) and machines (artificial systems). While studying the mechanisms of self-regulating machines like the thermostat, or the steam engine, the cyberneticists made an important discovery. Although self-regulating machines had existed long before cybernetics, the cyberneticists were the first ones who recognized that these machines involved a mechanism which Norbert Wiener called “feedback loop.” Fritiof Capra explains the concept of feedback as follows:

A feedback loop is a circular arrangement of causally connected elements, in which an initial cause propagates around the links of the loop, so that each element has an effect on the next, until the last “feeds back” the effect into the first element of the cycle [...]. The consequence of this arrangement is that the first link (“input”) is affected by the last (“output”), which results in self-regulation of the entire system, as the initial effect is modified each time it travels around the cycle (Capra 1997: 56f.).

Wiener called the logical pattern, or organizational principle, that underlies the concept of feedback “circular causality” (cf. Capra 1997: 58). The cyberneticists found out that circular causality cannot only be found in self-regulating machines but that this organizational principle is actually an essential property of all living systems (organisms and social systems) as well. The conditions necessary for a living system to exist are created and maintained by the system itself in a self-sustaining process of dynamical feedback (cf. Capra 1997: 62).

Leary was fascinated by the fact that feedback can create a system that regulates itself and does not need an outside force to control it. Being a person who is against centralism, he was very much interested in the decentralizing effect that feedback might have on the information society we live in. He was convinced that the feedback created by people communicating via the Internet, interactive media, etc, was going to change the world to the better. As more and more people become connected, more feedback could occur and create a living system that does not depend on rigid structures of control and domination in order to exist.

Now how does Leary explain the basic concepts of cybernetics? After making the reader aware of the difference between a pattern of organization/organizational principle and the structure of a system, Leary points out that the most important organizational principle defined by cybernetics is the circular causality of feedback, ”a notion crucial to the understanding of the complexities of the modern world”(DD 50). He explains the concept of feedback by describing how perception in human beings works:

Feedback is information about a process used to change that process. One remarkable fact about neurophysiology is that nerve signals don’t carry explicitly encoded information. A nerve fiber carries signals to the brain. It is the brain that somehow manufactures the richness of our perceptual experience from these signals. Only by correlating the input signals with the internal state of the perceptual apparatus can sense be made of the signals. Changes of sensation are correlated with motor activity. Here is our circularity again: movements are required for perception, and perception required for movements. Even seemingly simple muscular acts couldn’t be accomplished without feedback (DD 50).

The system that Leary describes here regulates itself, like a thermostat which regulates itself by continuous feedback. Leary explains that in any self-regulating system all the components are active. As Leary puts it, “cybernetic systems are self-organizing. This implies an active cooperation of the individual components of any population that composes a system”(DD 51). Leary explains that cybernetics terms this principle of self-organization “autopoiesis,” from the Greek auto, meaning “self,” and poiesis, meaning “a making” (cf. ibid.). “Autopoiesis refers to the central circular quality of all living and lifelike systems,” Leary writes. “The principal characteristic of such [autopoietic] systems is that their interaction yields systems with the same kind of organization, hence they are “self-making”(ibid.). The cyber-society that we supposedly are creating right now would be such an autopoietic system.

Leary argues that feedback (i.e., self-reference) in cybernetic organization leads to “fractal forms.” What is a fractal form? The term “fractal” (coined by chaos mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot) is used to describe “a shape whose details resemble the whole thing. A mountain range is a kind of fractal, since if you look at an outcropping of rock on a mountain, it looks like a small mountain itself, and if you lean closer to the rock outcropping, you find bumps on the boulders which themselves look like mountains, and so on”(Rucker 1992: 45). Fractal forms can be described with the help of circular equations. These equations are called circular equations because after you get an answer, you plug it back into the original equation again and again, countless times (cf. Rushkoff 1995: 22). This image of the fractal — similar components repeated at each level of scale — gives us a better picture of what Leary means. Leary imagines the interpersonal organization of communicating individuals in an information society (a society which is based on unlimited information exchange) as a huge fractal: “I, as a person, am similar to you. Yet the juxtaposition of us and millions of others in a fractally organized system results in the apparent complexity of the system as a whole”(DD 33). The mind of a single person is seen by Leary as interacting fractal subsystems. “As inside, so outside,” Leary says, reminding us of medieval mystics who expressed their insights into the real nature of the world in the sentence “As above, so below”(DD 36). Leary holds that we are all made up of many “selves” and that circuitous routes of communication exist between these selves. He refers to computer pioneer Marvin Minsky who argues that the mind is made up of independent interacting pieces of soft machinery (cf. DD 32). Leary concludes that the principles of organization that apply to the interpersonal organization of communicating individuals in an information society also apply to the intrapersonal organization of selves in a functioning individual.

As far as the fractal nature of the world is concerned, Leary argues that the ingestion of LSD would enable us to directly experience this fractal nature: “The interconnectedness of the world as it appears to humans in certain mystical and pharmacological states comes from a direct appreciation of its fractal nature. It’s particularly amusing that nearly every LSD user who is shown visual representations of moving fractals exclaims over his or her astonished recognition: ‘That’s what I see’”(DD 33).

After this short excursion into the world of fractals, let us return to the concept of self-organization. Leary’s cyber-society is a self-organizing system. In order to understand the concept of self-organization, we have to understand how order can arise from chaos (disorder). Leary’s answer to the question of how order can arise from disorder is crucial for the understanding of his concept of the cyber-society.

How can order arise from chaos? To answer this question Leary refers to a theory by Russian-born chemist and physicist Ilya Prigogine. The theory is called “theory of dissipative structures.” This theory is the first, and perhaps most influential, detailed description of self-organizing systems (cf. Capra 1997: 88). During the 60s Prigogine developed a new nonlinear thermodynamics to describe the self-organization phenomena in open systems far from equilibrium. While studying the processes of heat convection, Prigogine discovered that there are phenomena which cannot be described with the laws of classical thermodynamics. According to the second law of thermodynamics, there is a trend in physical phenomena from order to disorder. Any isolated, or “closed,” physical system will proceed spontaneously in the direction of ever-increasing disorder. The phenomena that Prigogine discovered, however, showed that in an open system far from equilibrium coherence and order can arise from thermal chaos. Unlike closed systems, which settle into a state of thermal equilibrium, open systems maintain themselves far from equilibrium in a quasi-steady state characterized by continual flow and change (cf. Capra 1997: 88f.).

Leary describes Prigogine’s theory of “dissipative structures” as follows:

In 1977, Ilya Prigogine won the Nobel Prize for his work on the thermodynamics of nonequilibrium systems, “dissipative” structures arising out of nonlinear processes. Classical thermodynamics maintained that random (autonomous) local processes such as molecular motion always tend toward a maximum of entropy (disorder). Prigogine showed that in spatially confined neighbourhoods, orderly physical assemblages can spontaneously arise. Individual occurrences that engender these spontaneous coherences are called “free agents”(DD 52).

As far as the “free agents” are concerned, Prigogine provides Leary with an explanation that helps Leary to show that in the cyber-society the individuals that make up this society are free to choose whatever they want to do (freedom of the will) and still their interactions produce ordered structures:

Prigogine’s explanation of the phenomenon of convection are considered heretical by traditional science. For instance, we know that hot air rises, but there’s no reason why it should; molecules are simply more energetic and faster moving than their cooler cohorts. Prigogine asserts that the coherent emergent behavior of masses of hot air is intelligent and volitional. Hot air rises because it wants to.[...]
Although the motion of a single molecule might appear “selfish,” aimless with respect to the global organization of its environment, the local interactions of many such individuals produce macrosopic order, in certain circumstances (DD 53).

Another interesting thing about self-organizing chaotic systems like the ones described by Prigogine is that they are systems that are governed by orderly rules, yet their behavior is unpredictable because of their complexity. Leary explains: “[C]hanges in the initial state of a complex system, however small, lead to arbitrarily large changes after time elapses. Because the initial state is neither precisely measurable nor precisely reproducible, the system is not predictable” (DD 54). In Chaos theory this is known as the “butterfly effect” because of the assertion that a butterfly stirring the air in Beijing can cause a storm in New York next month (cf. Capra 1997: 134).

According to Leary, more and more people are discovering that change and disequilibrium are the driving forces of the universe and that stability (the static, predictable Newtonian universe) is an illusion (cf. DD 54). More and more people would accept the fact that we live in an unpredictable, chaotic world which cannot be controlled. This change in consciousness would make people realize that static hierarchical dogmatic social structures are outdated and, consequently, lead to change in society.

4.3. The observer-created universe

In this chapter I am going to show that the epistemology of Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory is constructivist. Like the constructivists, Leary argues that “reality” (what we accept as reality) is a construction of our minds. In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary presents an interesting argument from the field of quantum physics to back this idea – Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle.” In this chapter I want to discuss this argument and explain Leary’s concept of “formatting the brain,” which corresponds to the concept of imprinting Leary used in the 70s to show how we can create our own realities. Before I discuss Leary’s interpretation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle I will shortly explain what constructivism is.

Constructivists argue that we do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are. They see the human mind as “creator, imposing its categories on what it encounters” (Spivey 1997: 2). This means what we accept as objective reality is actually a construction of our minds. Although constructivism was not identifiable as a theoretical orientation until the 1920s or 1930s, constructivist positions have been postulated through the years from classical times (e.g., the scepticist Epimenides from Crete) to the Enlightenment (e.g., philosopher Immanuel Kant) to our modern age (e.g., psychologist Jean Piaget). Kant, for example, argued that humans cannot directly experience external reality because they cannot escape the “categories” and “forms of perception”(time, space) through which they perceive the world. Ergo, the “Ding an sich” (objective reality) remains an enigma (cf. ibid. 6). Constructivists argue that humans impose order on their sensory experience of the outside world, rather than discern it, and that they create knowledge, rather than discover it. As Nancy Neslon Spivey put it in The Constructivist Metaphor: “Constructivists view people as constructive agents and view the phenomenon of interest (meaning and knowledge) as built instead of passively ‘received’ by people whose ways of knowing, seeing, understanding, and valuing influence what is known, seen, understood, and valued”(Spivey 1997: 3). The “radical constructivist” Ernst von Glasersfeld, for example, maintains that knowledge is “exclusively an order and organization of a world constituted by our experience” (Watzlawick 1984: 24) and is not a reflection of an objective ontological reality. This means that the models of reality we create can help us to organize our experiential world, but they cannot help us to discover an objective reality.

Like the constructivists, Leary argues that objectivity is an illusion. According to Leary, Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle,” a percept of quantum physics, is a scientific proof for the fact that knowledge can never be objective, that is, cleansed of all subjective distortion (cf. FB 378). Leary argues that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which states that a subatomic particle’s position and momentum cannot both be accurately known, has serious implications for philosophy and science, as well as for our everyday lives (cf. ibid.). In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary explains:

Werner Heisenberg’s principle states that there is a limit to objective determinacy. If everyone has a singular viewpoint, constantly changing, then everyone creates his or her own version of reality. This gives the responsibility for reality construction not to a bad-natured biblical God or to an impersonal, mechanical process of entropic devolution, or to an omniscient Marxist state, but to individual brains. Subjective determinacy [...]. Our brains create our own spiritual worlds, as they say along the Ganges (CC 5f.).

Furthermore, Leary explains that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle “suggests that our observations fabricate the subject matter, i.e. realities. We can only know what our sense-organs, our measuring instruments and our paradigms or maps describe”(Info 2). According to Leary, the “Quantum universe” that Heisenberg and the other quantum physicists define is an observer-created universe. It is a universe that changes when the viewpoint of the observer changes.

In order to be able to understand Leary’s argument we have to have some background knowledge about quantum physics and we have to know the crucial difference between classical (Newtonian-Cartesian) physics and quantum physics. Since Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is often used by various cyber-philosophers as an argument to challenge scientific authority (cf. Dery 1996: 63) I want to explain it here in a detailed way.

Classical physics suggests that atoms are hard, solid particles that exist independent of an observer (cf. Capra 1982: 78). The quantum physicists, however, discovered that atoms and subatomic particles are far from being hard, solid objects. The quantum theory of Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, et al. suggests that subatomic particles are very abstract entities that have a dual nature. Depending on how we look at them, they appear sometimes as particles, sometimes as waves. But how can something be, at the same time, a particle, an entity confined to a very small space, and a wave which is spread out over a large region of space? Fritjof Capra explains:

The situation seemed hopelessly paradoxical until it was realized that the terms “particle” and “wave” refer to classical concepts which are not fully adequate to describe atomic phenomena. An electron is neither a particle nor a wave, but it may show particle-like aspects in some situations and wave-like in others. While it acts like a particle, it is capable of developing its wave nature at the expense of its particle nature, and vice versa, thus undergoing continual transformations from particle to wave and wave to particle. This means that neither electron nor any other atomic “object” has any intrinsic properties independent of its environment. The properties it shows – particle-like or wave- like – will depend on the experimental situation, that is, on the apparatus it is forced to interact with [italics mine] (ibid. 79).

According to quantum physics, no atomic “object” has any intrinsic properties independent of an observer (i.e., the measuring instruments and the concepts an observer uses to describe atomic objects). In other words, scientists create models of reality, using concepts which are constructions of their minds, and they create knowledge rather than discover it.

The quantum physicists had to realize that the classical concepts they used could not provide a complete description of reality. Heisenberg managed to express the limitations of classical concepts in a precise mathematical form, which is known as the uncertainty principle. Capra describes the uncertainty principle as follows:

The uncertainty principle [...] consists of a set of mathematical relations that determine the extent to which classical concepts can be applied to atomic phenomena; these relations stake out the limits of human imagination in the atomic world. Whenever we use classical terms – particle, wave, position, velocity – to describe atomic phenomena, we find that there are pairs of concepts, or aspects, which are interrelated and cannot be defined simultaneously in a precise way. The more we emphasize one aspect in our description the more the other aspect becomes uncertain, and the precise relation between the two is given by the uncertainty principle (ibid.).

By showing that all the concepts scientists use to describe atomic phenomena are limited, Heisenberg made it clear that scientists do not deal with objective truth but with limited and approximate subjective descriptions (models) of reality.

For Leary, this means that anybody who claims that his/her model of reality is the absolute truth is simply wrong. Since we cannot say anything definite about objective reality there is simply no way to justify the claim that a model of reality is true or false. Leary suggests that we should learn to think of models not as “false” or “true” in some abstract and absolute sense, but as the products of humans in concrete situations, all possessing some kind of relative truth, and none of them big enough and inclusive enough to contain all the truth. We filter reality. We only perceive what confirms our model of the world (cf. CC 39f.)

Leary argues that out of the million signals received from the outside world per second, the human brain ignores most and organizes the rest in conformity with whatever model, or belief system, it currently holds. According to Leary, our usual habit of screening out all signals not compatible with our own favorite reality-map is the mechanism which keeps us all far stupider than we should. If we want to become more intelligent we have to be able to change the models of reality imprinted in our brains and learn to see the world through different models simultaneously. According to Leary, intelligence means awareness of detail. The more signals you receive/process per second the more intelligent you are (cf. CC 35ff.).

Like many constructivists, cognitive psychologists, and cyberneticists, Leary sees the brain as an information processing system (computer). Our minds, according to this metaphor, serve as the software that programs the neural hardware (cf. CC 39). According to Leary, most of the classic psychological terms can now be redefined in terms of computer concepts. The psychological process of imprinting, for example, could now be called “formatting the brain.” Imprinting means sudden programming of the brain. Leary explains: “Imprinting is a multimedia input of data. For a baby, it’s the warmth of the mother, the softness, the sound, the taste of the breast. That’s called booting up or formatting. Now baby’s brain is hooked to Mama and then of course from Mama to Daddy, food, etc., but it ‘s the Mama file that’s the first imprint”(CC 35). (The reader who has read chapter three, where the concept of imprinting as interpreted by Leary is explained, should be able to understand this quotation.) According to Leary, psychedelic drugs enable us to “re-formate the brain,” that is, to change imprints. This means that if one takes LSD one’s experience of life is reevaluated in a neutral context and put it into a new order (cf. ibid.). This process of “re-formatting the brain” corresponds to John Lilly’s concept of “metaprogramming,” which is explained in chapter 3.3., “The Neuroelectric-Metaprogramming Circuit.” (It should be mentioned here that Leary’s computer-brain model was inspired by John Lilly’s model of the “human biocomputer” which Lilly developed in the mid 60s. Lilly used this model, which is described in Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer, for psychotherapy, meditation, and for his own experiments with LSD.)

According to Leary, at present the computer-brain-formatting metaphor is the best metaphor for explaining what happens during a psychedelic experience[52]; it is the best metaphor for understanding and operating the mind, the best metaphor for learning how we can consciously create our own realities (cf. CC 39).

4.4. The Sociology of LSD

In Leary’s Quantum Psychology psychedelic drugs do not play a central role. In various interviews Leary proclaimed that the personal computer is the LSD of the 1990s. However, psychedelics — LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA (Ecstasy) – seem to be making a big comeback in the 90s. That is why I want to discuss two interesting essays by Leary which explain why psychedelic drugs are in vogue again.

Are psychedelics really making a comeback in the 90s? Yes, they do. In an essay by Dan Joy called “Psychedelic Renaissance” (this essay serves as introduction to the 1992 edition of Psychedelics Encyclopedia) we can find quotations from newspaper/magazine articles from all over the world that indicate that there is a worldwide resurgence of interest in psychedelic drugs — especially LSD. Newsweek magazine, for example, reported in its February 3, 1992 issue that “acid is staging a serious comeback in the 90s, especially among affluent suburban teenagers.” According to this report, the rise in popularity is partially attributed to weaker doses, which result in fewer “bad trips” and are more likely to be taken at parties. Surveys conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan has shown that in 1991 LSD had overtaken cocaine in popularity among high school seniors for the first time since 1976 (cf. Stafford 1992: III-23).

In his essays “The Sociology of LSD” and “Just Say Know: The Eternal Antidote to Fascism,”[53] Leary gives a sociological explanation for this phenomenon. He explains why the first LSD boom declined and why more LSD is being used today (so he claims) than in the 60s.

According to Leary, LSD – like the computer, the railroad, or the automobile – is a technology (a tool which is the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes) that introduced profound changes in society. However, “change causes fear,” Leary says. Whenever a human being is confronted with something new, he/she would automatically react with fear. Leary explains: “[T]here are powerful genetic mechanisms, reinforced by society, geared to react with fear at the approach of the new. This neophobia obviously has a survival value. At each stage of evolution each gene pool has been protected by those with the nervous system wired to cry Danger! Caution”(CC 101)! According to Leary, fear is the “glue” that holds “human hives” together. Fear guards continuity.

However, whenever cultures reach states of national security, economic prosperity, and imperial confidence people start to reflect about their fears. A counterculture emerges and encourage novel art forms and lifestyles. Philosophers, scientists and artists reject the old values and search for new meaning.

Exactly at these times, when philosophy, science, and religion “vibrate with transcendent energies” two things happen: external exploration into undiscovered geographical realms, and inner exploration using brain-change drugs (cf. CC 97). Of course, Leary is thinking about the 60s here. However, this cultural phenomenon could also be found in ancient India (the time of the Aryan conquest), ancient Greece, or in Europe in the 16th century (the Enlightenment). Let us, for example, look at the situation in ancient Greece: Leary explains that the Athenians were self-reliant pioneer navigators that discovered new territories (external exploration), that the Greek philosophers developed new philosophic models that help us to understand how our brain works, and that the Greek mystery cult of Eleusis used an LSD-type substance in its annual rebirth ceremonies (inner exploration).

At such times in the emergence of a civilization, optimistic change-agents would manage to push our species into new adventures and introduce new technologies in society. However, the history of science has shown that every new technology that compels change in lifestyle or in understanding of the human nature has always taken one or two generations to be socialized and domesticated (cf. CC 102). Right after their discovery the newly discovered technologies are considered to be dangerous, heretical, and morally wrong by the government. Leary reminds us that Vatican astronomers in the 16th century, for example, consistently refused to look through Galileo Galilee’s telescopes and tried to force Galileo to give up the heliocentric worldview.

Leary concludes that, given these facts, it is not surprising that LSD was considered to be dangerous and morally wrong when it first appeared in the 60s. According to Leary, the LSD-hysteria is over now because psychedelic drug usage is no longer a trendy topic for the media and politicians; we have new problems (oil, “crack”, the New Cold War, etc). Now that the LSD-hysteria has died down, more and more smart young people are learning how to intelligently use brain-change drugs like LSD for recreational purposes and to reach enlightenment. More and more people realize that the ultimate (and only) pleasure organ is the brain, “an enormous hundred-billion-cell hedonic system waiting to be activated”(CC 100). There are almost no bad trips being reported, because “the acid is clean and the users are sophisticated” (ibid.). According to Leary, the average suburban teenager today knows more about the varied effects of brain-change drugs than the most learned researcher twenty years ago”(ibid.).

Leary points out that, in addition to the pure LSD that is now available, new brain change drugs (“designer drugs”) are now appearing in plentiful quantities. In comparison to the “crude” psychedelics of long duration and unpredictable effect that were used in the 60s (e.g., STP), the new shortacting drugs (e.g., MDMA, the favorite drug of people in the techno-rave scene) would be safer and easier to handle.[54] As Leary puts it: “Just as computers today are more efficient, cheaper, and more reliable than those thirty years ago, so are the drugs”(ibid.). Leary predicts that the next decade will see the emergence of dozens of new, improved, stronger, safer, psychoactive drugs – and people would be ready for these new drugs:

There is an enormous market of some fifty million Americans today who would joyfully purchase a safe euphoriant, a precise psychedelic of short duration and predictable effect, an effective intelligence increaser, a harmless energizer, a secure sensual enhancer. An aphrodisiac! [...]
The last two decades have just whetted humanity’s eternal appetite for technologies to activate and direct one’s own brain function. The drug movement has just begun [my italics] (CC 100).

According to Leary, this increase in popularity of psychedelic drugs, especially LSD, is closely linked to the fact that we are living in a world where everything is changing faster and faster. There would be an enormous acceleration of knowledge we have to keep up with in order to survive in the new information society. Psychedelics, especially LSD, would help us to cope with this acceleration by accelerating our brain functions. In his earlier theories, in the 60s and 70s, Leary suggests that LSD allows us to temporarily suspend our imprints (which means that we leave our rigid reality tunnels and enter a multi-choice reality-labyrinth) and re-imprint new, more complex, funnier realities. In terms of Leary’s Quantum Psychology, this means that under the influence of the drug there is a dramatic increase in the amount of information processed per second. The more new circuits are opened in the brain (the “ROM brain-circuits”), the more new information we notice in the objects we perceive. Leary argues that those people who like LSD will always be able to deal with what is to come because they know how to “surf the waves of chaotic change” planfully. “The future is going to spin faster and wilder, of that we can be sure” Leary predicts. “If you don’t like acid, rest assured you’re not going to like the future. Now, more than ever before, we need to gear our brains to multiplicity, complexity, relativity, change. Those who can handle acid will be able to deal more comfortably with what is to come [my italics]”(CC 103).

4.5. Designer Dying/The postbiological options of the Information Species

Leary was definitely right when he said that “the future is going to spin faster and wilder” — no matter if we took LSD or not. In the last couple of decades there has been an enormous acceleration of technological development so that today we are literally not able to predict which new, groundbreaking technologies will be discovered tomorrow. Technology is changing faster and faster. What was still considered to be science fiction yesterday is reality today (Internet, virtual reality, cloning, etc). In Leary’s opinion this accelerating change rate is a sign that things are getting better. As far as changes that new technologies introduce into society are concerned, Leary has always been an optimist: He thought that computers, the Internet, and other interactive media would help us to dissolve hierarchical social structures, create the realities of our dreams, make the world a better place to live in. More than that, decentralization of power and the emergence of a self-organizing cyber society would actually be the inevitable consequences of these new technologies. Computers, as well as psychedelic drugs, would enable us to break out of practically all (social, political and personality-brain) structures that limit our thinking and perception and force us to behave in a certain way. This means we (theoretically) have total control over the courses of our lives.

However, there seems to be one last limit: death. Is there a way to escape death? How can we solve this last problem? Can technology help us to become immortal? What does Leary say about the problem of death? I am including this chapter about death in my paper because the solutions that Leary suggests to overcome this last problem seem to be a logical consequence of his cyberpunk attitude, his utopian faith in technology, and his eternal optimism. Leary’s last book, Design for Dying (co-authored with R. U. Sirius), makes his Quantum psychology theory complete. In this book he suggests different techniques that allow us to transcend the last limit, which is imposed on us by mortality.

In his essay “Common-Sense Alternatives to Involuntary Death”(CC 187–202), co-written with Eric Gullichsen, Leary predicted that the cybernetic age we are entering would be an age of freedom and enlightenment:

The exploding technology of light-speed and multimedia communication lays a delicious feast of knowledge and personal choice within our easy grasp. Under such conditions, the operating wisdom and control naturally passes from aeons-old power of gene pools, and locates in the rapidly self-modifying brains of individuals capable of dealing with an ever-accelerating rate of change.
Aided by customized, personally programmed, quantum-linguistic appliances, individuals can choose their own social and genetic future, and perhaps choose not to ‘die’ ”(CC 190).

Leary writes that first step towards solving the problem of death is to deprogram the “dying reflexes” imprinted in our brains by our culture and start thinking scientifically about alternatives to “going quietly and passively into the dark night or the neon-lit, Muzak-enhanced Disney-heaven of the Jesus Gang.” Leary points out that in pre-cybernetic cultures “the reflexive genetic duty of the top management (those in social control of the various gene pools) was to make humans feel weak, helpless, and dependent in the face of death. The good of the race or nation was ensured at the cost of the sacrifice of the individual”(CC 188). By controlling the “dying reflexes” and orchestrating the trigger stimuli that activate the “death circuits” (accomplished through rituals that imprint dependence and docility when the “dying alarm bells go off” in the brain) the gene-pool managers have maintained the attitude of dedication, obedience, and submission. For millennia the fear of death has depreciated individual confidence and increased dependence on authority. However, now that the individual is empowered by computers and other technologies, he/she would start thinking for him-/herself and question authority. People would learn to deprogram the “dying reflexes” and take personal responsibility for their dying process.

According to Leary, death is only a problem of knowledge, that is, information processing. “Once we comprehend that death is a problem of knowledge — information processing — solutions can emerge,” writes Leary (DD 143). Leary has always been very optimistic that scientists will soon develop technologies that make us immortal. In Design for Dying, he predicts that “the concept of involuntary, irreversible metabolic coma known as ‘death’ is about to become an outmoded, antiquated superstition”(ibid.). He suggests that it would be a wise decision to preserve one’s body (freeze the body, or store the information about the physical structure of the body digitally) and store one’s believe systems digitally, because it will only be a matter of five or ten years until the problem of biological death will be solved and we will also be able to exist as electronic life-forms on computer networks (cf. DD 149). “To immortalize: digitize!” is one of Leary’s slogans.

In Design for Dying, Leary discusses about thirty different techniques/technologies for extending our life spans and achieving immortality. Leary admits that these techniques do not give us a 100% insurance that we will become immortal. However, it is always better to be optimistic and think creatively about new possibilities than to be pessimistic and accept the bleak visions of the future imposed on us by authorities. I just want to mention three of the most spectacular techniques/technologies that Leary discusses, so the reader knows what Leary is talking about:

  1. Cryonics: The body, or only the brain is frozen, preserved until a time of more advanced medical knowledge (cf. DD 153–61).

  2. Nanotechnology: A nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter. Some scientists predict that we will soon be able to construct mechanical devices of this scale. Molecular robots could remove diseased DNA segments from the cells of AIDS patients, or repair cells in the body and keep the body from aging. A cryonically preserved brain that is damaged from freezing could be repaired. Machines that pick up single atoms and put them together to form molecules already exist (for more info see Scientific American homepage: ). Nano-machines could produce any desired article (rocket ships, sweets, a body organ, etc) from dirt and sunlight. This would mean we have total control over the material world. (cf. DD 161–67).

  3. The “microtome procedure” or “downloading:” This method is suggested by Carnegie-Mellon robotics scientist and artificial intelligence theorist Hans Moravec. It generally involves a cryonically preserved brain. The brain is sliced thin. Each slice is scanned into a computer using an electron microscope. The computer reconstructs the brain’s circuitry onto some form of hardware. Moravec’s notion of “downloading” offers a theoretical but highly exhaustively worked out solution to the problem of how mind can be extracted from body (cf. Dery 1996: 299f.). The information about the brain structure could be used to build a new brain with the help of nanotechnology or we could exist as electronic life form in computer networks (cf. DD 172). In addition to Moravec’s way of “downloading,” Leary offers another: “Through storage of one’s belief systems as online data structures, driven by selected control structures (the electronic analogue to will?), one’s neuronal apparatus will operate in silicon as it did on the wetware of the brain, although faster, more accurately, more self-mutably, and – if desired – forever” (DD 149).

Leary does not only predict that we will soon be immortal. He also predicts that, “In the near future, what is now taken for granted as the perishable human creature will be a mere historical curiosity, one point amidst unimaginable, multidimensional diversity of form. Individuals [...] will be free to choose to reassume flesh-and-blood form, constructed for the occasion by the appropriate science”(CC 202). According to Leary, all the new technologies that have been developed in the last couple of decades (especially computer-information technology) indicate that natural evolution of the human species is near completion. Leary points out that some people (especially computer scientists) are no longer interested in merely procreating, they are designing their successors. He quotes Hans Moravec who writes, “We owe our existence to organic evolution. But we owe it little loyalty. We are on the threshold of change in the universe comparable to the transition from nonlife to life”(CC 199). What Moravec and Leary mean is that humanity has now reached a turning point in the operation of the process of evolution. We are entering the “posthuman” age. Leary explains:

[It is] a point at which the next evolutionary step of the species will be under our control. Or more correctly, the next steps, which will occur in parallel, will result in an explosion of diversity of the human species. We shall no longer be dependent on fitness in any physical sense for survival. In the near future, computer and biological technologies [nanotechnology, genetic engineering] will make the human form a matter totally determined by individual choice. [...]
Humans already come in some variety of races and sizes. In comparison to what “human” will mean within the next century, we humans are at present as indistinguishable from another as are hydrogen molecules. As we become conscious of this, our anthropocentrism will decrease (DD 148).

Reading Leary’s predictions about future technologies that enable us to become immortal and make the human form “a matter totally determined by individual choice,” we get the impression that Leary’s aim, in Design for Dying, is to persuade people to place their faith in an end-of-the-century deus ex machina, a machine god that would free all of us from limitations of any sort, making us godlike beings – technology as the Savior of humanity. It cannot be denied that Design for Dying is a hymn to technological progress; however, this is not the main message that Leary tries to communicate in this book. Leary does not want people to blindly believe in his techno-eschatology. He does not want to persuade people to choose the cryonics option or to “download” their brains/minds into a computer just because he said that this would be the best thing to do. The aim of Design for Dying is to make people aware that they have choices, choices regarding how to die and, someday soon, they may have choices about whether to die. Leary tells us that we should not blindly accept the “dogmas of monotheistic-totalitarian religions” that have “cleverly monopolized the rituals of dying to increase control over the superstitious”(CC 189). The main message that Leary is trying to communicate in Design for Dying is “Think for yourself and question authority”(DD 2). (We will see that these are the basic guiding principles that guided Leary’s whole life and work.) In “Common-sense Alternatives to Involuntary Death,” Leary writes: “We do not endorse any particular technique of achieving immortality. Our aim is to review all options and encourage creative thinking about new possibilities [my italics]” (CC 195).

It should also be mentioned here that Leary was very well aware that technology is not intrinsically liberating and that his visions of a technotopia only show “one side of the coin.” At a talk in San Francisco in 1992, for example, Leary pointed out that the computer (which, here, stands for technology in general) can be an engine of liberation as well as a tool of social control. Making us aware that most funding for computer and virtual-reality research and development can be traced to the military, Leary argued that the goal of technological endeavor sponsored by governments and large corporations usually is to create rigidly controllable and predictable systems by “taking the human being out of the loop”(cf. Stafford 1992: III-48f.). In the light of this viewpoint, according to Leary, the project of developing “artificial intelligence” becomes one of duplicating or exceeding certain human capacities with machines, while eliminating the unpredictability of human intuition, creativity, free will, and whim – factors that have been responsible for many of the truly revolutionary advances in science and technology. Leary pointed out that artificial intelligence endeavors have utterly failed to approximate the responsiveness, sensitivity, subtlety, and complexity of the human brain. He summed up this perspective by referring to the phrase “artificial intelligence” as “an oxymoron”(cf. ibid.).

Given these facts, it is not surprising that Leary himself did not decide to “download” his own brain into a computer in order to escape death and continue to exist as electronic life-form (i.e., artificial intelligence). Nor did he choose the cryonics option or “die live on the Internet,” as he had announced soon before he died. He decided to be cremated. His ashes were placed aboard a rocket ship and sent to outer space, where they now orbit the earth. Why did he not choose the cryonics option? “I have always considered myself an astronaut, and in death this will become a reality,” was Leary’s answer to this question (DD 5). His plans for cryonic preservation were only intended as a symbolic gesture, encouraging people to investigate alternatives to “involuntary dying.”

Leary has always been of the opinion that it is not important what you do, as long as you are “doing your own thing”- which means that you keep thinking for yourself and questioning authority — and “do not lay your trip on others.” (Remember the two commandments that Leary suggested in The Politics of Ecstasy.) In Design for Dying, R. U. Sirius explains that Leary did not see himself as a messenger for the cryonics movement or any other movement because he had never liked to be part of somebody else’s “game.” As Sirius put it,

[W]hether it was Harvard, the peace movement, Eldridge Cleaver, the Californian penal system, or the Extropian movement (advocates of cryonics and nanotechnology), Tim Leary didn’t like to be a captive pawn in anybody else’s game. And so he escaped. Once again.
What is the way of the Tao? Move on.
Lao-Tzu (DD 192).

4.6. A comparison/summary of Leary’s theories

So far, I have presented only Leary’s view of the emergence of a new global counterculture which Leary calls the cyberpunks, or New Breed. Now the question arises: Is this countercultural movement Leary is talking about really going to change the world? Is this new counterculture really going to create a post-political society based on individual freedom? Will the techno-utopia that Leary’s cyberpunks believe in finally become reality? Or is the techno-eschatology that Leary’s cyberpunks put their faith in nothing more than a naive escapist fantasy that blinds us to the real (social, political, economic, and ecological) problems all around us?

Before I will try to answer these questions in a critical analysis of the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s, I want to shortly compare the three most important theories that Leary has produced in the course of his career as counterculture spokesman. There are two reasons why I think that is useful to make this comparison (which can also be read as a summary) before discussing the cybernetic counterculture of the 90s:

First of all, if we really want to understand the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s we first have to go back to the 60s, because the cyberpunks and “cyber-hippies” of the 90s have adopted many ideas and beliefs from the hippies of the 60s. One way to find out what the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s and the psychedelic counterculture of the 60s have in common is to study Leary’s theories. The comparison I am going to make will help me to show that the difference between these two countercultures is not as big as one might think. According to Leary, the 90s counterculture is actually a continuation of the 60s counterculture. As Leary might put it: The goal has remained the same, only the methods/technologies have changed.

Second, this comparison will help me to show that the hippies were not nearly as rural and anti-technology as some cultural critics argue. Leary, the controversial Harvard psychologist, was very well aware that he was “turning on the world” with a high-tech product (LSD) and that a large part of the hippies did not on principle reject technology. According to Leary, all the hippies wanted was to experience ecstasy and freedom — freedom from self-imposed limitations as well as limitations imposed on them by society — and, for them, the high-tech product LSD was acceptable because it helped them to reach their goal.

If we compare Leary’s Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness (The Politics of Ecstasy) to his Exo-Psychology theory (Exo-Psychology, Neuropolitics) and his Quantum Psychology theory (Chaos & Cyberculture, Design for Dying) we find that there are at least three things that these three theories have in common:

  1. They are all based on the idea that we can create our own realities, that “reality” is a construction of our minds (i.e., our nervous systems).

  2. They are all concerned with how we can attain freedom, how we can break free from all limits – selfimposed as well as external, metaphysical as well as physical. All the countercultures that Leary describes in his different theories have the same aim: Individual freedom, Ecstasy (i.e., “the experience of attaining freedom from limitations, either self-imposed or external”).

  3. They are all based on the belief that science and technology can help us to attain freedom, enlightenment, and immortality.

Ad 1.) All of Leary’s theories are based on the belief that “reality” is a construction of our minds/nervous systems. In other words, the observer (i.e., the observer’s nervous system) creates the universe, or “reality tunnel,” he/she lives in. It could be said that Leary’s major thesis, in all of his theories, is that in this century the human nervous system has discovered its own creativity and its own limitations. We have discovered that the realities our parents, governmental institutions, priests, and scientists are trying to impose on us are arbitrary constructions and that the only way to escape these “reality tunnels” imposed on us is to learn to understand how our brains operate and use this knowledge to create our own realities. All of Leary’s theories describe models that explain how the human brain works, and suggest different methods which, according to Leary, can help us to escape the “authorized realities” that are “jealously guarded by the ones in power.”

In the 60s and 70s, Leary used the concept of imprinting to explain how the brain works. According to Leary’s Exo-Psychology theory, there are certain brief “critical periods” in a human being’s life during which imprints are made. These imprints (fixed neural structures) determine our realities; they determine what we will see and will “not see.” Imprints are permanent. Only strong bio-chemical shock can suspend an imprint. The method/technology to change imprints that Leary suggests is to take LSD. According to Leary, during a psychedelic drug experience the imprints in a person’s brain are suspended and the person can consciously re-imprint new realities, realities he/she likes better than the old ones.

In the 80s and 90s, psychedelic drugs played only a secondary role in Leary’s theories. “The PC is the LSD of the 90s,” Leary proclaimed. In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary suggests that the computer is a tool that can help us to create our own realities. How? Leary imagines that the human brain works like a digital computer. In his Quantum-Psychology theory, he explains that the brain converts every sensory stimulation into directories and files of 0/1 signals. The sensory input programs the brain and determines the realities that we inhabit. This means that every “reality” consists of 0/1 bits of information. According to Leary, this is the reason why for the brain digital (screen-) realities are not less real than the “material” reality and why the computer can help us to create our own (digital) realities.

Another argument that Leary uses to back his idea that reality can be consciously designed is a daring interpretation of chaos theory. In Design for Dying, Leary describes the world as a self-organizing chaotic system, as one big fractal. What goes on inside any one person’s head is reflected, in some manner, on every other level of reality. As Leary puts it: “As inside, so outside.” All of the different levels of reality (nervous system, social system, etc) are logically connected. This means that if we change our perception of the world and our thinking, the world will automatically change as well (because everything is logically connected). So any individual being has the ability to redesign reality at large (cf. DD 32f.). According to Leary, the fractal nature of the universe can be experienced when we take LSD.

I have just said that drugs only played a secondary role in Leary’s later theories. This is true. However, it should be mentioned here that, in Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary points out that the new “designer drugs” that are now appearing in “plentiful qualities” are also helpful tools that enable us to create our own realities (CC 100). According to Leary, the new designer drugs (e.g. Ecstasy) are much more predictable and easier to handle than the “crude” psychedelics that were used in the 60s. We just have to decide what we would like reality to be like and take the drug that will alter our observations about reality in the way we want it to be altered. In other words, the “world” will change because it is observed differently.

According to Leary, the Hippies were the first generation in human history that knew how to create their own realities consciously (with LSD). Equipped with new, refined technologies (computers, designer drugs, etc), the cyberpunks of the late 80s and 90s are already experts in creating “designer realities.”

Ad 2.) If we compare Leary’s different theories, in which he captures the most important beliefs and ideas that prevailed in the different countercultures he was part of, we find that the countercultures that Leary describes (the Beats, the Hippies, the cyberpunks) have many things in common. Most important of all, they all have the same aim: Individual freedom. According to Leary, the Beats, the Hippies, and the cyberpunks all belong to one and the same revolutionary movement. In his theories, Leary tries to show that this movement which has its roots in the 50s (the Beats) and 60s (the Hippies) is creating “a post-political society that is based on Ecstasy, i.e. the experience of individual freedom”(PE 2) Now how does Leary define the terms “Ecstasy” and “individual freedom”? For Leary, freedom means much more than free expression or having the right to vote. It is a state of consciousness in which all limits are transcended – Ecstasy. In the essay “Politics of Ecstasy: The Youth Revolutions of the 20th Century,” Leary defines Ecstasy as follows: “[Ecstasy is] the experience of attaining freedom from limitations, either self-imposed or external; a state of exalted delight in which normal understanding is felt to be surpassed. From the Greek ‘ex-stasis.’ By definition, ecstasy is an ongoing on/off process. It requires a continual sequence of ‘dropping out.’ On those occasions when many individuals share the ecstatic experience at the same time, they create a brief-lived ‘counter-culture.’ Synonyms [of Ecstasy are]: Euphoria, [...] bliss, nirvana, rapture”(PE 1). According to Leary, the “psychedelic-cybernetic revolution” that started with the Beats in the late 50s in America is a revolution based on ecstatic states of being in which politics (“the primitive struggle for power and territory”) and ethical norms are transcended. This movement has been made possible by psychedelic drugs and cybernetic-electronic technology. According to Leary, this individual-freedom movement is new to human history because it is not based on geography, politics, class, or religion. It has to do not with changes in the political structure but with changes in the individual mind. It is a “consciousness revolution.”

All of Leary’s theories contain models that explain how human consciousness has changed in the course of evolution. They describe different levels of consciousness which correspond to different stages in human evolution. According to Leary, human evolution is an evolution towards freedom. Psychedelics and computers play an important role in Leary’s vision of humanity’s development towards this state of total freedom. By helping us to understand how our brains work and enabling us to activate the higher levels of consciousness (which have not been accessible to the majority of people in the past) they help to speed up human evolution. As more and more people are discovering how to activate these higher levels of consciousness — which are characterized by freedom from limitations and an endless number of choices that are open to the individual — we are moving closer and closer to the final stage of human evolution which Leary describes as “the culmination of the mystical, transcendental, spooky, hallucinatory dreams which we have envisioned in our highest psychedelic (mind-opened) states”(PE 2).

The higher levels of consciousness that Leary describes in his Theory of the Seven Levels of Consciousness and his model of the Eight Circuits of the Brain (which is an extended version of the model with only seven levels) give us an idea how our future is going to look like. When we activate the so called post-terrestrial circuits of the brain (i.e., the higher levels of consciousness) that Leary defines in his Eight Circuit model, we are able to escape from the narrow “reality tunnels” (struggle for power and territory, etc) imprinted in our brains, which Leary sees as the cause of all suffering. When we activate the Metaprogramming Circuit, we can suspend imprints and re-imprint into our brains any reality we like. When we open the Neurogenetic Circuit, we can even break free from the “constraints of the DNA.” Finally, when we activate the Neuroatomic Circuit, we reach the highest level of consciousness which goes beyond form, words, and “hallucinatory struggles.” This means we are also free from the “constraints of matter” and become immortal. In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary predicts that this final stage of human evolution “where the human form is a matter totally determined by individual choice” is not so far away. Leary argues that, right now, scientists are developing new technologies (e.g., nanotechnology) that will allow us to “manipulate matter as information,” which means that, thanks to technology, we will soon be able to assume any form we like. For example, we will be able to “download” our brains into computers and exist as ‘immortal’ electronic life forms.

Ad 3.) Leary has never been a technophobe. In fact, he has always believed that science and technology can help us to attain freedom, enlightenment, and immortality. Leary has always been open to new scientific discoveries and has embraced the new technologies as aids to positive social and spiritual transformation.

In the 60s, Leary preached that LSD could help us to create a new post-political society based on Ecstasy and it would show us the way to enlightenment. Leary was very well aware of the fact the LSD is a high-tech product and he realized that the hippies were not against technology on principle. (I want to remind the reader that LSD originally came from the high-tech laboratories of a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, the Sandoz company.) LSD was not the only method/technology to expand one’s mind that Leary suggested in the 60s. He also organized high-tech light shows (psychedelic light shows) which were supposed to produce the same effects as a dose of LSD.

In the 70s, Leary realized that LSD was not the magic cure-all he thought it was. So he started looking for other technologies that might help us to free ourselves from authority and attain freedom, enlightenment and immortality. In Neuropolitics (1977), he suggests that computers could be used to create a “global electronic nervous system,” an electronic communication network which would weaken the power of politicians and finally lead to the fall of representative government. However, the emergence of globe-linking electronic communication would just be a period of transition that prepares us for the next stage in human evolution which, according to Leary’s Exo-Psychology , is space migration. In Exo-Psychology (“the psychology of post-terrestrial existence”), Leary argues that the purpose of technology is to enable us to leave this primitve planet and migrate to space where we might find our creator — the Higher Intelligence which seeded life on this planet in form of the DNA. According to Leary’s Exo-Psychology, the aim of life is to find this Higher Intelligence and fuse with “hir.” Technology would help us to reach this aim.

In the 80s, when computers became accessible to millions of people and the Internet was opened to the public, Leary became an energetic promoter of the Internet and virtual reality. In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary describes the computer as magic tool which enables the individual to create his/her own (digital) realities. As far as the social and political implications of computer-networking technology are concerned, Leary predicts that the free information exchange and feedback made possible by the Internet would create a post-political, non-hierarchical cybernetic society – a society based on Ecstasy, that is, the experience of individual freedom.

Leary goes even further and prophesies that the enormous acceleration in technological development we are witnessing right now will in the near future lead to technological breakthroughs (nanotechnology, “downloading”) that will enable us to “manipulate matter as information,” which means that the human form becomes “a matter totally determined by individual choice.” According to Leary, we have now reached a turning point in human evolution where the next evolutionary step will be under our control. This means we can actually “design” our futures. For example, we could decide to “download” our brains into computers and do away with the “old flesh” (body) all together. Newly discovered technologies such as nanotechnology would open up an unlimited number of choices. As Leary put it, “In the near future, what is now taken for granted as the perishable human creature will be a mere historical curiosity, one point amidst unimaginable, multidimensional diversity of form. Individuals [who do not like their existence as electronic life forms] will be free to choose to reassume flesh-and-blood form, constructed for the occasion by the appropriate science”(CC 202).

4.7. A critical analysis of the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s

In this chapter, I argue that Leary was a central figure in the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s. I want to show that in his Quantum Psychology theory Leary expresses the most important ideas and beliefs that prevail in this counterculture, and want to critically discuss some of these ideas and beliefs. This chapter is subdivided into four subchapters:

In the first subchapter (4.7.1.), I shortly describe the most important events in the development of the cybernetic counterculture in chronological order.

In the second subchapter (4.7.2.), I critically analyze some of the ideas and beliefs that the cybernetic counterculture is based on, by comparing two interesting analyses of the cyberdelic phenomenon: Douglas Rushkoff’s Cyberia, which is a very emphatic, rather uncritical approach to the phenomenon and very similar to Leary’s approach[55]; and Mark Dery’s Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, which is a very critical analysis of the cyberdelic counterculture in which Dery harshly criticizes Rushkoff’s Cyberia and New Age visionaries like Leary whose “siren song of the nineties technophilia and sixties transcendentalism seduces the public mind with the promise of an end-of-the-century deus ex machina at a time when realistic solutions are urgently needed”(Dery 1996: 49). I argue that Leary’s theories are based on exactly the same beliefs as Rushkoff’s Cyberia. Dery’s criticism of the beliefs and ideas expressed in Rushkoff’s Cyberia uncovers some of the weak points in Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory. This critical analysis of the cyberdelic counterculture and the description of the development of this counterculture (4.7.1) shows that Leary really played a central role in this counterculture and that Leary’s theories perfectly capture the technotopian atmosphere that prevails in the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s.

In the third subchapter (4.7.3.), I show that the blind techno-euphoria that predominates in the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s is slowly wearing off because more and more cyber-hippies are realizing that their vision of the “cyber-society” — a world of intelligent, creative, self-reliant people who have free access to information, all made possible by cybernetic technology — is based on at least two problematic assumptions: First, the feedback and decentralization caused by cybernetic technology has only positive effects, that is, it creates individual freedom. Second, technology does not automatically make us more intelligent, creative and self-reliant. I will discuss these two problematic assumptions.

In the fourth subchapter (4.7.4.), I criticize Leary’s techno-utopianism by using arguments from Marshall McLuhan’s discourse on technology. I argue that McLuhan never was the technoutopian that Leary and and other contemporary technophiles like to portray.

4.7.1. The evolution of the cybernetic counterculture

In the essay “Electronica: The True Cyber Culture, ” Douglas Rushkoff notes that if we trace back the roots of this counterculture we find that the first group of people that praised the computer as a tool of liberation and transcendence were members of bohemian communities in California in the 70s:

Culturally speaking, it was the California “bohemian” communities [sic] that first embraced the computer as a tool of artistic and spiritual expression. As early as the mid-1970s, psychedelic renegade Timothy Leary was appearing in documentaries predicting that someday in the future, all of us would be exchanging messages electronically through our “word processors.” The visionary “Whole Earth Review” editor Stewart Brand announced to his hippy, environmentalist following that computers should be seen as aids to positive social and spiritual transformation (Rushkoff, Douglas. “Electronica: The True Cyber Culture.” n. pag. Online. Internet. 29 Aug 1998. Available

In the 70s, only very few people had access to computers and the Internet — which then was called “ARPA-Net” — was only for military communication (cf. Dery 1996: 5f.). However, it did not take long until this vision of a society in which all, or at least most of the people are connected electronically became reality. In the early 80s, the computer revolution moved beyond the esoteric subculture of researchers and hobbyists and became a mass culture phenomenon. In 1983, when universities, business companies, and government agencies connected their computers to the Internet, what had been the Arpa Internet mutated into an anarchic global network (cf. ibid.).

In 1984, science fiction writer William Gibson, in his cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, invented the concept of cyberspace, described by Gibson as a “consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation” (Gibson 1995: 22). Many young “computer-freaks” started to believe in Gibson’s cyberpunk vision; and Gibson’s concept of cyberspace finally became reality. As Gibson himself put it, “Cyberspace is a consensual hallucination that these people have created. It’s like, with this equipment [computers, virtual reality gear, etc], you can agree to share the same hallucinations. In effect, they’re creating a world. It’s not really a place, it’s not really a space. It’s notional space” (quoted in Rucker 1992: 78).

According to Jon Lebkowsky, a contributing editor of the online magazine Hot Wired, the evolution of the cyberpunk subculture within the vibrant digital culture of today was mediated by two important events: One was the opening of the Internet. The other was the appearance of the first cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000. Lebkowsky explains:

The Internet derived much of its ambiance from a strange hybrid of 60s counterculture and 80s libertarianism. Mondo 2000, a glossy periodical that evolved from an earlier neopsychedelic zine [High Frontiers], incorporated this sociopolitical sensibility and blended it with their own peculiar sense of post-punk irreverence, drugged-up pranksterism, and high style. The result was a new cultural trend, or at least the media-generated illusion of one.
It was 1989. Computers were seen as tools of High Geekdom. Mondo, however, portrayed the new technology as sexy, hip, and powerfully subversive. And as Captain Picard might say, they made it so.
It was Bart Nagel’s unique computer-enhanced graphic style that pushed Mondo 2K [this is how its fans call it] over the top, making it something of a phenomenon in the early 90s. However, the real meat was in the cheerfully irreverent exploration of nascent technoculture and the evolving computer underground from the perspectives of the writers/editors, whose handles were R.U. Sirius, St. Jude, and Queen Mu. Besides displaying strangeness and charm, early Mondo was the only popular representation of the hacker ethic, described by author Andrew Ross as “libertarian and cryptoanarchist in its right-to-know principles and its advocacy of decentralized knowledge. [It] asserts the basic right to all users to free access to all information. [...]” (quoted in Kroker 1997: 16).

It should be mentioned here that Leary was a contributing editor of Mondo 2000. Many of Leary’s essays about the cyberpunks and the subversive potential of computers (the most important of these essays can be found in Chaos & Cyberculture) were first published in Mondo 2000.

Mondo 2000 does not only report about computer hackers and the Internet. In Mondo 2000, we find articles about smart drugs (legal drugs that are supposed to enhance your intelligence), virtual reality, electronic music, chaos theory, artificial life, nanotechnology, brain implants, designer aphrodisiacs, psychedelics, techno-erotic paganism, etc. If we look at these different topics we see that Mondo tries to unite the scientific culture and the nonscientific culture. In Mondo the technical world and the underground world of popular culture and street level anarchy are converging. Another thing we can see if we look at these different topics is, that this cultural phenomenon that Mondo tries to make us aware of actually encompasses a considerable amount of subcultures, among them computer hackers, “ravers” (people who regularly go to all-night electronic dance parties known as “raves”), technopagans (this subculture combines neopaganism with digital technology), and New Age technophiles.

Now what do all of these different subcultures that express their views in Mondo 2000 have in common? This question leads us to the discussion part of this chapter.

4.7.2. Deus ex machina: a deadly phantasy?

In his cyber-hippie travelogue, Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, Douglas Rushkoff gives a comprehensive survey of the subcultures discussed in Mondo. Rushkoff collectively calls these counterculture Cyberia, or the cyberian counterculture of the 90s. Accordi ng to Rushkoff (who was influenced by Leary’s theories very much), there are at least two things that all of the cyberian subcultures have in common:

  1. the belief that we can create our own realities, that “reality” is a construction of our minds.

  2. the belief that technology can help us to create our own realities and break free from all limits (cf. Rushkoff 1995: 3–7).

(I decided to use the same phrasing as in the comparison of Leary’s theories because I want to show that, apart from a few small details, Rushkoff and Leary share the same worldview.)

Like Leary, Rushkoff’s cyberians see the world as one big self-organizing chaotic system, as one big fractal which is governed by orderly rules. According to Rushkoff, we are not able to fully understand these rules and to control this chaotic system because the system is so complex. The only thing we know is that our world is entirely more interdependent than we have previously understood. Like Leary, Rushkoff argues that what goes on inside any one person’s head is reflected, in some manner, on every other level of reality. So any individual being, through feedback and iteration, has the ability to redesign reality. If you change, the world changes. (cf. ibid. 23). According to Rushkoff, there are different ways to experience the fractal nature of the universe, or — to use Rushkoff’s terminology – there are different ways to access Cyberia, or “cyberspace.” “Cyberspace can be accessed through drugs, dance, spiritual techniques, chaos maths, and pagan rituals,” Rushkoff explains (ibid. 3), adding that,

Ultimately, the personal computer and its associated technologies may be the best access point to Cyberia. They even serve as a metaphor for cyberians who have nothing to do with computers but who look at the net as a model for human interaction. It allows for communication without the limitations of time or space, personality or body, religion or nationality. The vast computer-communications network is a fractal approach to human consciousness. It provides the means for complex and immediate feedback and iteration, and is even self-similar in its construction, with giant networks mirroring BBSs [Electronic Bulletin Board Services], mirroring users’ own systems, circuit boards, and components that themselves mirror each participant’s neural biocircuitry. In further self-similarity, the monitors on some of these computers depict complex fractal patterns mirroring the psychedelics-induced hallucinations of their designers, and graphing – for the first time – representations of existence as a chaotic system of feedback and iteration (ibid. 37).

If we read these two quotations we see that, for Rushkoff’s cyberians, the term “cyberspace” (and its synonym “Cyberia”) does not only refer to computer networks and data banks that are experienced by computer users as a boundless space. Fore them, the “hypertext-universe” of the Internet is only one manifestation of a mystical world where the limits of space, time, and body are transcended. Rushkoff explains: “Cyberia is the place a businessperson goes when involved in a phone conversation, the place a shamanic warrior goes when travelling out of body, the place an ‘acid house’ dancer goes when experiencing the bliss of a techno-acid trance. Cyberia is the place alluded to by the mystical teachings of every religion, the theoretical tangents of every science, and the wildest speculations of every imagination”(Rushkoff 1995: 5). According to Rushkoff, cyberspace, or Cyberia, is a “place” (a realm of consciousness) where we can create our own realities, a world where we can be anyone or anything we want to be. Psychedelic drugs and computers are seen as technologies that help us to access and explore this strange hallucinatory world.

Like Leary’s cyberpunks, Rushkoff’s cyberians believe that technologies such as psychedelic drugs and computers are a part of the continuing evolution of the human species towards greater intelligence, empathy, and awareness. To them, science/technology is the same as magic; spiritual is digital (another similarity to Leary’s Quantum psychology). They all share the one vision that technology can help us to break free from limits of any sort, metaphysical as well as physical, and will finally lead us to enlightenment. Like Leary’s cyberpunks, Rushkoff’s cyberians believe that technological development is in some kind of asymptotic acceleration. As psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna, on of the main figures in Cyberia put it:

Nano-technology, psychedelic chemistry, the Internet, cloning, [...] – all of these things synergizing each other are producing very rapidly a world which is almost incomprehensible to most people. There is no reason to suppose that this process is going to slow down. [...] At any point there could be a breakthrough – cold fusion, real extraterrestrial contact, a nanotechnological assembler, a telepathic drug, a longevity drug that stops aging. It could come from any of so many directions that I’m sure we will be surprised” (Eisner, Psychedelic Island Views, Vol 3, Issue 1: 9).

Rushkoff and McKenna predict that technology — by electronically and psychically connecting all the people on this planet and thereby creating one big collective consciousness — will help us to create the necessary conditions for humankind’s “great leap into hyperspace,” a hyperdimensional shift into a timeless non-personalized reality, which is the eschatological endpoint of the cyberian vision of the future of humanity (cf. Rushkoff 1995: 147). In the introduction to Cyberia, Terence McKenna (who in the media is presented as Leary’s heir apparent) describes this “great leap into hyperspace” as follows:

We’re closing distance with the most profound event that planetary ecology can encounter, which is the freeing of life from the chrysalis of matter. And it’s never happened before – I mean the dinosaurs didn’t do this, nor did the prokaryotes emerging. No. This takes a billion years of forward moving evolution to get to the place where information can detach itself from the material matrix and then look back on a cast-off mode of being as it rises into a higher dimension (ibid. 7).

McKenna speculates that this “great leap into hyperspace” may usher in a cybernetic Garden Eden where “all of the technological appurtenances of the present world have been shrunk to the point where they have disappeared into [nature] and scattered as grains of sand along the beaches of this planet and we all will live naked in paradise but only a thought away is all the cybernetic connectedness and ability to deliver manufactured goods and data that this world possesses”(quoted in Dery 1996: 9f.).

Rushkoff and McKenna do not explain exactly how the interconnection of all human beings will give birth to a “planetary consciousness” so that this great leap into hyperspace can take place, but it has something to do with chaos theory – with the idea that order can arise from chaos, and the biological phenomenon that previously disconnected elements reach a critical point where they suddenly cooperate to form a higher-level entity. It should be mentioned here that Rushkoff’s vision of the future of mankind is a synthesis created from the basic concepts of a number of scientific and esoteric theories: Chaos theory’s premise that order can spring from seemingly random phenomena, James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis (in which Loveleock suggests that the earth is a big self-organizing system), Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the “noosphere” (which could be defined as a combined field of all human consciousness) , McLuhan’s concept of a Global Village, and psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna’s Timewave theory, in which McKenna suggests that this “great leap into hyperspace” (the culmination of the asymptotic acceleration of technological development, the end of history and linear time) will take place in the year 2012.[56] (For further explanations and references see Dery 1996: 43–48.)

The reader might ask him-/herself what it will feel like at the end of linear time when we all leap into hyperspace. According to McKenna, the only thing that comes close to how human experience in hyperspace will feel like, is a DMT trip (cf. ibid. 90). DMT is by far the strongest psychedelic drug. One user in Cyberia says, “It’s like taking every LSD experience you’ve ever had and putting them at a head of a pin”(ibid. 87). Rushkoff explains that experimentation with DMT and virtual reality could be seen as a preparation for the coming hyperdimensional shift into hyperspace and can “help cyberians to discriminate between what is linear, temporary, and arbitrary, and what is truly hyperdimensional”(ibid.). (Leary also believed that experimentation with DMT and LSD is a good way of preparing oneself for the wild and chaotic future that lies ahead.)

I now want to come back to the concept that reality is a construction of our minds, because, in my opinion, this is the key idea that underlies Rushkoff’s Cyberia. Just like Leary, Rushkoff’s cyberians believe that we can learn to consciously change our realities. Rushkoff, like Leary, tries to back this belief by referring his readers to quantum theory which teaches that “just becoming aware of something changes it”(ibid. 23). We only need the right technologies (psychedelics, computers, etc) that enable us to alter our perception of the world. The psychedelic experience, for example, leads cyberians to conclude that “they have the ability to reshape the experience of reality and thus – if observer and observed are one – the reality itself”(ibid.) This means that if we alter our perception of the world the society we live in automatically changes as well. This is the cyberian’s alternative to politics. Change your consciousness and the world will change automatically.

According to Rushkoff, the idea that reality is an arbitrary construction is something which strongly connects the cyberian counterculture of the 90s with the hippies of the 60s. Rushkoff points out that the hippies were the first generation that realized that reality is an arbitrary construction. The hippies would have handed on their knowledge to the cyberian counterculture of the 90s that now continues their mission. As Rushkoff puts it, “[T]he single most important contribution of the 1960s and the psychedelic era to popular culture is the notion that we have chosen our reality arbitrarily. The mission of the cyberian counterculture of the 1990s, armed with new technologies, familiar with cyberspace and daring enough to explore unmapped realms of consciousness, is to rechoose reality consciously and purposefully” (ibid. 6f.).

Cultural critic Mark Dery agrees with Rushkoff that the 90s are in a way a return of the 60s. (We will see that this is actually the only point on which Dery and Rushkoff agree.) In Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, Dery writes that,

The return of the sixties [...] is at the heart of the cyberdelic wing of fringe computer culture. Not surprisingly, many of cyberdelia’s media icons are familiar faces from the sixties: No magazine cover story on the phenomenon is complete without the septuagenarian Timothy Leary, admonishing readers to “turn on, boot up, jack in” and proclaiming that the “PC is the LSD of the 1990s”[my italics], or Steward Brand, the former Merry Prankster[...] Other prominent cyberdelic spokespeople, such as the Mondo 2000 founders Queen Mu and R. U. Sirius [...] are steeped in the Northern California counterculture of the sixties. [...]
Cyberdelia reconciles the transcendentalist impulses of the sixites with the infomania of the nineties. In cyberdelia, the values, attitudes, and street styles of the Haight-Asbury/Berkeley counterculture intersect with the technological innovations and esoteric traditions of Silicon Valley. The cartoon opposites of disheveled, dope-smoking “head” and buttoned-down engineering student, so irreconcilable in the sixties, come together in [...] Rushkoff’s cyberians (Dery 1996: 22f.).

This quotation shows that Leary really played a central role in the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s. It shows that the media made Leary an icon of the cyberdelic counterculture. The media enabled Leary to attract many young people to the subversive potential of the computer and the Internet.

Dery points out that, increasingly, the media image of the “Generation Xers” who predominate in high-tech subcultures is that of the cyber-hippie, or, in England, the “zippie” (“Zen-inspired pagan professional”). Cyber-hippies, or zippies, are a combination of sixites children and nineties techno people. They are portrayed in the media as smart young people who dress in “cyberdelic softwear” (T-shirts printed with squirming sperm, leggins adorned with scutting spiders, jewelry fashioned from computer parts, belled jester caps that are popular at raves, etc) and “meditate on psychedelic mandalas like the New Electric Acid Experience video advertised in Inner Technologies, a mail order catalogue of ‘tools for the expansion of consciousness’”(ibid. 23f.). In addition, cyber-hippies like to boost their brain power with smart drugs and “mind machines” — headphone-and-goggle devices that “flash stroboscopic pulses at the user’s closed eyes, accompanied by synchronized sound patterns, [...inducing] trancelike states characterized by deep relaxation, vivid daydreams, and greater receptivity toward autohypnotic suggestion for behavior changes”(ibid. 24).

What Dery shows is that the cyber-hippies of the 90s are a generation of young people that has found a way to live with technology – something the anti-tech, back-to-the-land hippies never accomplished. As Dery puts it, “What distinguishes the cyberdelic culture of the nineties from psychedelic culture, more than anything else, is its ecstatic embrace of technology”(ibid.). According to Dery, the cyber-hippies see themselves as the complete opposite of the anti-tech, anti-science hippies and dismiss the 60s counterculture as “a return to nature that ended in disaster.” However, there is one thing that people who characterize the psychedelic counterculture of the 60s as intractably anti-technological forget to take into consideration, namely that,

The archetypal hippie experience was not dancing naked in a field of daisies, but tripping at an acid rock concert. The psychedelic sound-and-light show was as much a technological as a Dionysian rite, from the feedback-drenched electric soundtrack to the signature visual effects (created with film, slides, strobes, and overhead projectors) to the LSD that switched on the whole experience (ibid. 26).

Dery argues that the inhabitants of the 60s counterculture — exemplified by Leary or Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters — may have dreamed of enlightenment, but “theirs was the ‘plug-and-play’ nirvana of the ‘gadget-happy American’ – attained not through years of Siddhartalike questioning but instantaneously, by chemical means, amidst the sensory assault of a high-tech happening”(Dery 1996: 29). He refers to Theordore Roszak who, in The Making of a Counter Culture, points out that, “[...] the Learyite article of faith that the key to cosmic consciousness and sweeping societal change could be found in a chemical concoction sprang from a uniquely American faith in technology (Dery 1996: 25). (I think that Leary would not object to the quotation above.)

What Dery tries to show with this excursion back to the 60s is that, from a countercultural point of view, the 90s are really a return of the 60s. According to Dery, the cyber-hippies of the 90s have taken over many of the values and beliefs of the 60s counterculture and integrated them into their worldview – for example, the value of individual freedom and the belief that technology (chemistry) can help us attain freedom and enlightenment. Other ideas such as the ideal of living in perfect harmony with nature or Marx’s program to improve the social and economic conditions in our decadent (i.e., capitalistic) society, however, would have been dismissed as irrelevant to the 90s. As far as the difference between the hippies’ and the cyber-hippies’ attitudes towards politics is concerned, Dery points out that in spite of the fact that many hippies were only interested in taking drugs, politics still played an important role in the 60s counterculture (the antiwar movement, the civil rights struggle, black power, the New Left, feminism). In contrast to the hippies, the cyber-hippies of the 90s do not care about politics at all. Dery quotes cultural critic Todd Gitlin who, in The Sixties. Years of Hope, Days of Rage, notes that,

[In the 60s, there] were tensions galore between the radical idea of political strategy – with discipline, organization, commitment to results out there in the distance – and the countercultural idea of living life to the fullest, right here, for oneself [...] and the rest of the world be dammed (which it was already). Radicalism’s tradition had one of its greatest voices in Marx, whose oeuvre is a series of glosses on the theme: change the world! The main battalions of the counterculture – Leary, the Pranksters [...] – were descended from Emerson, Thoureau, Rimbaud: change consciousness, change life! [...]
[Countercultural phrasemakers such as Leary] were antipolitical purists for whom politics was game playing, a bad trip, a bringdown, a bummer. Indeed all social institutions were games... The antidote to destructive games was – more playful games (ibid. 23).

Dery argues that this “freak-politico dichotomy” of the 60s counterculture is resolved in the cyber-hippie counterculture, by “jettisoning ‘the radical idea of political strategy’ and updating ‘the countercultural idea of living life to the fullest, right here, for oneself’”(ibid.). According to Dery, in the 90s counterculture the victory of the countercultural tradition over political radicalism is complete. As Dery puts it, “[M]ovement politics or organized activism of virtually any sort are passé among the cyber-hippies, for whom being boring is the cardinal sin and ‘hijacking technology for personal empowerment, fun and games’ the be-all and end-all of human existence. After all, ‘sport, pleasure, and adventure are the only logical responses to a fractal universe’”(ibid. 32f.).

The last sentence of the quotation above is an insinuation to a passage from Rushkoff’s Cyberia, in which Rushkoff writes that, “[To the cyberians], the truth of Cyberia is a sea of waves – chaotic, maybe, but a playground more than anything else. [To them], sport, pleasure, and adventure are the only logical responses to a fractal universe [...] a world free of physical constraints, boring predictability, and linear events”(Rushkoff 1995: 181f.).

Dery harshly criticizes the cyberian worldview for its escapism and naiveté. He argues that Rushkoff’s “fuzzily defined program for personal and social change” – the idea that we have chosen our reality arbitrarily, and that the whole world is one big fractal which changes when the individual mind changes – bears a distinct resemblance to Freud’s concept of the “omnipotence of thoughts,” which Dery describes as “the primitive mode of thought that assumes a magical correspondence between mental life and the external, physical world. Primitives, wrote Freud, ‘believe they can alter the external world by mere thinking’”(Dery 1996: 42). To deny the existence of an objective physical reality and to place one’s faith in the liquid indeterminacy of a “quantum reality” would be naive. In Dery’s opinion the cyberians’ escape into cyberspace where they feel liberated from the limitations of space, time, and body is just a form of detachment that has nothing to do with freedom. Dery advises Rushkoff and his fellow cyberians that they would do well to heed media philosopher Walter Kirn’s admonition that “[w]hat the [cyberians] appear fated to learn from their ventures into pure electronic consciousness is that ultimate detachment is not the same as freedom, escape is no substitute for liberation and rapture isn’t happiness. The sound-and-light show at the end of time, longed for by these turned-on nerds, seems bound to disappoint”(ibid. 49).

In contrast to Rushkoff who, like his fellow cyberians, believes that technology can help us to transcend all limits, Dery is very skeptical about the cyberians’ uncritical, euphoric embrace of technology. He criticizes Rushkoff’s uncritical approach to the ideas and beliefs that prevail in the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s.

[...] Rushkoff doesn’t explore, he “groks” – a sixties verb meaning to instantly, intuitively apprehend. It is a method of uncritical inquiry appropriate to the Northern Californian corner of fringe computer culture he traverses, which is nothing if not defiantly antirational. In it, an utterly uncritical embrace of the proto-New Age aspects of sixties counterculture has been freed from the shackles of back-to-nature romanticism and hitched to the liberatory promise of technology (mind machines, smart drugs, BBSs, virtual reality).
[...] Rushkoff’s cyberians give voice to nearly all of cyberdelic culture’s received truths, foremost among them the techno-pagan axiom that rationalism and intuition, materialism and mysticism, science and magic are converging. [...] Rushkoff contends that Western reason, with its emphasis on linear, rational thought, is unable to make sense of the “overall fractal equation for the postmodern experience,” where the “rules of linear reality no longer apply”(ibid. 41f.).

The reader might have noticed that Dery’s criticism of Rushkoff’s Cyberia could just as well be directed at Leary’s Quantum Psychology theory and his concept of the cyber-society. Like Rushkoff, Leary believes that “reality” is an arbitrary construction and that Western reason (Newtonian physics, etc) is unable to make sense of the chaotic, fractal, non-linear world we inhabit. Both Leary and Rushkoff present technology as something which is absolutely, 100% positive. They both see technology as an “extension” of the human being.

As far as Leary’s and Rushkoff’s visions of the future are concerned, they are both based on the believe that technology will help us to realize the mystical dream of rising beyond the “prison of flesh.” Both Leary and Rushkoff predict that we will soon reach the final stage of evolution, the moment when “information can detach itself from the material matrix.” Also Leary’s and Rushkoff’s explanations of how this techno-mystical dream will become true are practically the same. Like McKenna in his Timewave theory, they both argue that the exponential acceleration of technological development we are witnessing at present will lead to unimaginable breakthroughs: “downloading” (that is, mapping of the idiosyncratic neural networks of our minds onto computer memory, thereby rendering the body superfluous), the nanotechnological assembler (which could help us to create machines that stop our bodies from aging), etc. Both Leary and Rushkoff advise their readers to prepare themselves for the “great leap into hyperspace” that Terence McKenna predicts in his Timewave theory – a world in which all limits are transcended, a world of total freedom. (It should be mentioned that here freedom is not defined in terms of social liberties but in morphological, neurological, and genetic terms. Freedom is freedom of form.)

In contrast to Leary, Rushkoff, and McKenna whose main concern is to prepare us for the “posthuman liftoff from biology,” Dery tries to bring us back to the ground: “Posthumanist visions of the mind unbound [...] are a wish-fulfillment fantasy of the end of limits, situated (at least for now) in a world of limits. The envisioned liftoff from biology and gravity [...] by borging [from cyborg = cybernetic organism], morphing [the ability to change one’s form], and ‘downloading,’ or launching our minds beyond all bounds is itself held fast by the gravity of the social and political realities, moral issues, and environmental conditions of the moment,”(Dery 1996: 15). In the last chapter of Escape Velocity, “Cyborging the Body Politic: Obsolete Bodies and Posthuman Beings,” Dery refutes the cyberian assumption that consciousness is the result of wholly material processes and is therefore reproducible by technical means. His arguments taken from scientists of different fields try to prove that “downloading” is theoretically impossible (cf. ibid. 318). Dery makes us aware that the cyberdelic vision of a techno-mystical apotheosis in the “there and then” – like so many other millenarian prophecies before it – only diverts public discourse from the political and socioeconomic inequities of the “here and now.” Blindly placing one’s faith in a “theology of the ejector seat,” at a time when realistic solutions are urgently needed, would be a risky endgame. Dery points out that “the cyberians’ otherworldly trapdoor assumes various guises, among them the wiring of the human race into a collective consciousness, the technopagan ability to dream up a “designer reality” though a judicious application of the knowledge that “we have chosen our reality arbitrarily, and the “chaos attractor at the end of time [i.e., the “great leap into hyperspace,” “the freeing of life from the chrysalis of matter”]”(ibid. 49).

In truth, the cyberdelic rhetoric would represent what media philosopher Walter Kirn has called “an eruption of high-tech milleniarism – a fin de siècle schizoid break induced by sitting too long at the screen”(ibid.). The beliefs expressed in Cyberia would be textbook examples of what historian Leo Marx calls “the rhetoric of the technological sublime,” hymns to progress that rise “like froth on a tide of exuberant self-regard, sweeping over all misgivings, problems and contradictions”(cf. ibid. 316).

As far as the cyberian dream of “rising beyond the old flesh” (body) is concerned, Dery argues that it is dangerous to see the brain/mind as an object separating the body from the person/subject that lives in it. He wants to bring us back to our senses, to remind everyone of us that he/she lives in a body. Dery warns us that if we do not keep this subjective kind of body sense in mind as we negotiate our technoculture then we will objectify ourselves to death (cf. ibid. 311). He quotes cultural critic Donna Haraway who admonishes us that any transcendentalist ideology that promises a way of transcending the body (i.e., a way of denying immortality) contains the seeds of a “self-fulfilling apocalypse.” Haraway argues that, “[What we need, more than ever,] is a deep sense of the fragility of the lives that we’re leading – that we really do die, that we really do wound each other, that the Earth is really finite, that there aren’t any planets out there that we know of we can live on, that escape velocity [i.e., the vision of a techno-mystical apotheosis in the there and then] is a deadly fantasy”(ibid. 17).

4.7.3. This trip is over

The techno-euphoria that prevails in the cyberdelic counterculture seems to be slowly wearing off. More and more cyberians are realizing that the PC, the Internet, and other new technologies did not really bring the social, political, and personal changes they thought they would. Even R. U. Sirius, who used to be an euphoric spokesman of cyberculture, has finally realized that the visions of the cyber-society and the “liftoff from biology and gravity” have blinded us to the real problems on this planet. As Sirius put it:

[A]nybody who doesn’t believe that we’re trapped hasn’t taken a good look around. We’re trapped in a sort of mutating multinational corporate oligarchy that’s not about to go away. We’re trapped by the limitations of our species. We’re trapped in time. At the same time identity, politics, and ethics have long turned liquid. [...]
Cyberculture (a meme that I’m at least partly responsible for generating, incidentally) has emerged as a gleeful apologist for this kill-the-poor trajectory of the Republican revolution. You find it all over Wired [an online magazine] – this mix of chaos theory and biological modeling that is somehow interpreted as scientific proof of the need to devolve and decentralize the social welfare state while also deregulating and empowering the powerful, autocratic, multinational corporations. You’ve basically got the breakdown of nation states into global economies simultaneously with the atomization of individuals or their balkanization into disconnected sub-groups, because digital technology conflates space while decentralizing communication and attention. The result is a clear playing field for a mutating corporate oligarchy, which is what we have. I mean, people think it’s really liberating because the old industrial ruling class has been liquefied and it’s possible for young players to amass extraordinary instant dynasties. But it’s savage and inhuman. Maybe the wired elite think that’s hip. But then don’t go around crying about crime in the streets or pretending to be concerned with ethics (quoted in Kroker 1997: 20–23).

For R. U. Sirius, the techno-euphoria is gone. This trip is over. Cyberpunk is absorbed into the mainstream. The real problems of our material world are still here. To deny these problems would be futile (cf. ibid.). It seems that we are back to normal again. This means we will have to deal with the real problems, discuss politics and ethics again. Designer realities are fun but we have to be aware of the fact that they are just an escape from the real world. In our real world freedom means hard work. Cyberspace, like psychedelics, seems to be a dead end. It is just not enough to philosophize about chaos theory, quantum physics and “downloading” and wait until someday, perhaps, the world will adjust itself to one’s cosmology.

It seems that Leary’s concept of the cyber-society – a postpolitical, non-hierarchical society made possible by cybernetic technology, in which the computer-literate, super-intelligent, open-minded, change-oriented, self-reliant, irreverent free-thinker is the norm and the person who is not internetted and does not think for him-/herself and questions authority is the “problem person” (cf. PE 5) – will always remain an utopian dream because it is based on two problematic assumptions:

First of all, Leary suggested that the feedback, decentralization, and connectedness created by communication-networking-technologies has only positive effects, that is, it creates individual freedom and weakens the power of the government. Leary forgot to take into consideration that decentralization is a double edged sword. It slowly dissolves old authoritarian hierarchical political structures (or so it is claimed) while at the same time creating a “playing field for a mutating corporate oligarchy.” Not only the “good guys” (the cyberpunks) are using the electronic media; the “bad guys” (the multinational corporations, politicians, etc) are using them as well, and they very well know how to manipulate people. The multinational corporations, for example, very well know how to program people to believe that you can only be free if you have the newest technology. Freedom means having the fastest computer with modem, a satellite dish on your roof, a cellular phone, a video recorder, etc. And people really believe that they can buy freedom. Even Leary himself tried to convince us that “freedom in any country is measured perfectly by the percentage of Personal Computers in the hands of individuals”(CC 45).

Like Leary, the multinational corporations promise us a cybernetic paradise, a world in which all limits are transcended. The AT&T “You Will” campaign[57], for example, is such a promise. In Escape Velocity, Mark Dery describes the AT&T “You Will” campaign as follows:

In AT&T’s corporate brand TV spots, all is sweetness and light. “Have you ever opened doors with the sound of your voice?” asks a familiar voice, over a countrified jingle that conjures the wide, open territories of the electronic frontier. “You will.” A young woman steps out of an elevator, her arms full, and her apartment doors unlocks at her command. [...]
Brought to you by the mother of all communication companies, AT&T’s future is, in the best tradition of technological Utopias, a luminous place, not far off. [...] The golden glow that suffuses the spacious interiors in the spots – light made gauzy with the aid of fog machines – sentimentalizes corporate dreams of electronic interconnectedness by premisting the viewer’s eyes. Moreover, it lends AT&T’s vision of things to come an almost metaphysical air, drawing on the long-standing equation of the luminous and the numinous – an equation that is at least as old as the seventeenth-century poet Henry Vaughn’s evocation of the ultimate virtual reality, the afterlife (“They are all gone into the world of light!”) and as recent as the radiant aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Dery 1996: 11).

Oddly enough, the laptop computers, cellular phones, videophones, etc which multinational corporations like AT&T have brought us seem not to have lightened our burden as workers because “in a world where ‘we are all connected’ [...] the office intrudes on our vacations, the workday stretches into our evenings: Video screens, phones, and laptop jacks convert every seat in the Boeing 777 into an airborne office; the pagers and cellular phones provided by one resort in Vail, Colorado, turn downtime on the ski lifts into worktime”(ibid. 12). It is frightening how easily our privacy can be invaded in the digital age.

Nonetheless, many people in the Western World believe that television, cellular phones, computers, the Internet, etc make them more and more independent from authorities, and some people still hope that soon “superintelligent” machines will do all the work for them so they just have to lean back and “enjoy the show.” It is not surprising that the governments of the Western world do not lift a finger to change this delusive belief. Technotopian stories about the future do not weaken their power, quite to the contrary. Computers, the Internet, and all the other new technologies are “opium for the people;” technology keeps people happy and entertained. Why rise up against the government if you have TV (200 channels or more), Internet, Game Boys, cyber sex, etc?

The second problematic assumption that Leary’s concept of the cyber-society is based on is that the increase of intelligence is a logical consequence of the enormous acceleration of technological development we are witnessing at present. Leary calls this the “law of acceleration:” The faster the technology, the faster the speed of thought (cf. CC inside cover-page). In “Our Brain”(1991), for example, Leary states that “[i]n just the last ten years, our species has multiplied the ability to use our brains by a thousandfold”(CC 35) and “[t]he next uncontrollable fifteen years (1995–2010) will [even] accelerate this dizzy explosion of brain power”(CC 82). According to Leary, our brains are quickly learning to adapt to the speed of computers:

Speed is addictive, and evolutionary.
Individuals who work intimately with computational machinery find they grow quickly accustomed to rapid interactive responses, exulting in the quick succession of events in the culminative composition of growth of work, in the embodiment of the structure of one’s mind in the machine. Being forced to use a slower computer after addiction to rapid response speed is established is mentally excruciating in the extreme. It seems that there is no return from an accelerated frame of mind (DD 39).

The invincible optimist Leary predicted that by 2008 the super-bright, creative, imaginative, self-reliant computer adept will be the norm in our Information Society and the person who does not want to be internetted and connected will be the “problem person”(cf. CC 83f.).

The question arises: Do computers, the Internet, and other new technologies really make people more creative and intelligent? Do computers really teach us to think faster? Can our brains keep up with the speed of the electronic media? Cultural critics Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, for example, do not share Leary’s optimistic belief that faster technologies teach us to think faster and that by 2008 the super-bright, self-reliant computer adept will be the norm in our cybernetic society. The Krokers are pessimistic about the future of our digital culture. They argue that we are on “a fast trip to digital delirium” because “we have not escaped and will never overcome the fatal destiny of the law of reversal” (which is exactly the opposite of Leary’s “law of acceleration”):

[T]he faster the tech, the slower the speed of thought... the more accelerated the culture, the slower the rate of social change... the quicker the digital composition, the slower the political reflection... the more apparent the external speed, the more real the internal slowness... delirious speed and anxious slowness...a split reality... accelerating digital effects are neutralized by deaccelerating special human effects... digital reality spins out of control, human reality slow-burns back to earth... speed bodies and slow vision... speed flesh and slow bones... speed web and slow riot... the slow mirror of speed [italics mine](Kroker 1997: x)

In contrast to Leary who suggested that “our bored brains love ‘overload’”(CC 15), the Krokers argue that information overload (caused by computers, the electronic media, etc) numbs our brains so we cannot think clearly any more. The brain’s self-protective reaction to information overload is that it “shuts down.” As the Krokers put it in Digital Delirium: [T]he tyranny of information overload produce[s] a numbed culture that shuts down for self-protection”(Kroker 1997: xiii).

The Krokers’ law of reversal suggests that we are caught in some kind of vicious circle. We invent faster technologies to be able to meet the demands of our accelerating culture (our culture demands that we are able to think faster and faster, do work faster and faster, etc). These faster technologies which help us to do things faster, however, produce an even more accelerated culture. This means that we have to keep inventing faster technologies. The problem is that the human brain cannot cope with the growing speed of our culture. The result is: “Speed images, but slow eyes. [...] Speed media, but slow communication. Speed talk, but no thought”(ibid. ix).

Digital Delirium (published 1997) is a counter-blast to the blast of techno-utopianism that the 90s began with. The Krokers intention is to bring techno-utopians like Leary and McKenna back down to the ground from their “digital high.” They want to make people aware that the computer can be a dangerous and highly addictive drug because it gives you the feeling that you are omnipotent and know everything when, in fact, you know nothing. As long as you are “high” (numbed by the dizzying speed and information overload produced by computers) all problems seem to be solved (because the real problems are “screened out” so you are not aware of them). That is why it is hard to resist the seduction of computers. Leary himself admitted that “computers are more addictive than heroin” (quoted in Bukatman 1993: 139). But you cannot go on screening out problems forever. Like Mark Dery and Donna Haraway, the Krokers want to bring technoutopians like Leary to their senses and alert them to the real problems. The longer the high, the bitterer the come-down. If we do not start to fight our computer addiction now it might be too late because “speed kills.”

4.7.4. McLuhan revisited

Most people in the cyberdelic counterculture of the 90s consider media philosopher Marshall McLuhan to be the grandfather of cyberpunk because as early as 1964 he was talking about a “global village” borne of communication technologies, a concept which evolved, over time, to his vision of the “[p]sychic communal integration of all humankind, made possible at last by the electronic media”(Dery 1996: 45). Many cyber-philosophers (Leary, McKenna, Rushkoff, etc) were strongly influenced by McLuhan’s work. Leary’s optimism about the future of the Internet, for example, was inspired by McLuhan who, in Understanding Media (1964), suggested that with electric technology (electronic media) we extend our nervous systems in a global embrace, instantly interrelating every human experience. Consequently, the electronic media would reshape and restructure patterns of social interdependence and end psychic, social, economic, and political self-centeredness (see chapter 3.4.). Throughout his theories Leary uses McLuhan’s ideas (especially the idea that “all media [technologies] are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical”) to support the idea that technology can help us to liberate ourselves from all limits. Also Leary’s equation that “spiritual = digital” seems to be inspired by McLuhan who, in Understanding Media, wrote that “the current transformation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seems to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness”(quoted in Howard 1982: 390).

However, Leary never mentions that McLuhan actually had a highly ambivalent attitude towards technology. “McLuhan was never the technotopian that contemporary technophiles like to portray,” writes Arthur Kroker. “To read McLuhan is to discover a thinker who had a decidedly ambivalent perspective on technoculture. Thus, while McLuhan might be the patron saint of technotopians, his imagination is also the memory that should haunt them (Kroker 1997: 89).

This chapter, which is based on Kroker’s essay “Digital Humanism: The processed world of Marshall McLuhan”(Kroker 1997: 89–113), offers a new way of understanding McLuhan and is, at the same time, a criticism of Leary’s techno-utopianism. McLuhan’s discourse on technology provides a brilliant understanding of the inner functioning of the technological media, which might help us “to break the seduction effect of technology, to disturb the hypnotic spell cast by the dynamism of the technological imperative”(Korker 1997: 102).

According to McLuhan, the nature of technology is paradoxical: On the one hand, all technologies are extensions of the human being (e.g., the wheel is an extension of the foot); on the other hand, every extension by technology is simultaneously a “self-amputation” of the part of the body that is extended (by using the wheel/car we “self-amputate” our feet because we do not use them to walk any more) (cf. McLuhan 1964: 42). This means that we extend ourselves by self-amputation. According to McLuhan, the history of technological innovation can best be understood in terms of experimental medicine. In Understanding Media, he gives much attention to Hans Seleye’s work in the field of stress, especially the biological phenomenon that under conditions of deep stress an organism “self-amputates” the organ effected by anesthetizing it in order to protect itself (cf. Kroker 1997: 100ff.). (For example, when an organ of the body goes out it automatically goes numb. The organism automatically self-amputates it.) In Digital Delirium, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker explain McLuhan’s medical approach to technology as follows:

McLuhan’s historical account of the evolution of technological media was structured around a (medical) account of the evolution of technological innovation as “counter-irritants” to the “stress of acceleration of pace and increase of load. Just as the body (in Hans Seleye’s terms) resorts to an auto-amputative strategy when “the perceptual power cannot locate or avoid the cause of irritation,” so (in McLuhan’s terms) in the stress of super-stimulation, “the central nervous system acts to protect itself by a strategy of amputation or isolation of the offending organ, sense, or function.” Technology is a “counter-irritant” which aids in the “equilibrium of the physical organs which protect the central nervous system.” Thus, the wheel (as an extension of the foot) is a counter-irritant against the pressure of “new burdens resulting from the acceleration of exchange by written and monetary media;” “movies and TV complete the cycle of mechanization of the human sensorium;” and computers are ablations or outerings of the human brain itself (Kroker 1997: 103)

According to the Krokers, it was McLuhan’s thesis that the motive-force for technological innovation was always defensive and biological: The nervous system tries to protect itself against sudden changes in the “stimulus” of the external environment by using the physical organs (that is, the technologies which extend these organs as) “buffers.” In times of high stress, humans always invent new technologies – that is, they extend, or “outer,” individual organs – so the nervous system can protect itself against the stress of acceleration of pace. But each “outering” of individual organs is also an acceleration and intensification of the general environment. So it seems that humans are caught in some kind of vicious circle. (high stress > we invent new technologies to protect the nervous system > acceleration of the environment > high stress...).

According to McLuhan, in the electronic age we reached the culmination of this process. The environment changed so fast that “in a desperate [...] autoamputation, as if the central nervous system could no longer depend on the physical organs as buffers against the slings and arrows of outrageous mechanism”(McLuhan 1964: 43), the central nervous system itself was outered in the form of electric circuitry (computers, the Internet, etc). In other words, the nervous system has gone numb. According to McLuhan, this outering of the central nervous system induced an unprecedented level of stress on the individual organism (cf. McLuhan 1964: 252). McLuhan argues that the electric age is an age of “anxiety and dread” because we are unable to cope with this new situation; we are unable to understand the subliminal consequences of the fundamental changes in technostructure (cf. Kroker 1997: 101ff.).

McLuhan tried to make people aware that it is futile to deny that technology exists and that it is actually a part of us. The only way we could really understand technology is to experience it and try to become aware how it changes our perception of the world. If we are to recover a new human possibility it will not be “outside” the technological experience, but must be “inside” the field of technology (cf. Kroker 1997: 95). According to McLuhan, only a sharpening and refocusing of human perception could provide a way out of the “labyrinth of the technostructure”(cf. ibid.). In Digital Delirium, Arthur Kroker writes that “[McLuhan’s] ideal value was that of the ‘creative process in art,’ so much so in fact that McLuhan insisted that if the master struggle of the twentieth century was between reason and irrationality, then this struggle could be won if individuals learned anew how to make of the simple act of ‘ordinary human perception’ an opportunity for recovering the creative energies in human experience” (ibid.). According to McLuhan, we will never fully understand the subliminal effects of technology and be able to use technology to increase our intelligence, creativity, and freedom, if we do not first become aware of the “double-effect of the technological experience” — that all technologies are simultaneously extensions and self-amputations of some human mental or physical faculty (cf. ibid.).

When Leary talks about McLuhan, he never mentions the double-effect of technology and McLuhan’s warnings that the hypnotic spell of technology can be very dangerous. It seems that Leary himself was under the hypnotic spell of technology McLuhan was talking about, when he praised the computer, the Internet, and virutal reality as cure-all for all problems on our planet. There is a noticeable similarity between Leary’s LSD-euphoria in the 60s – Leary’s revealing LSD experiences caused him to believe that LSD would cure our “sick” society and help us create a new post-political society based on Ecstasy – and his computer-euphoria in the 80s and 90s. Unfortunately, neither LSD nor computers did bring the changes which Leary predicted. The Internet and other new communication technologies have decentralized our society, extended our nervous systems globally, but are we really free now?

5. Conclusion

5.1. Leary: a pioneer of cyberspace

Whether you share Leary’s utopian faith in technology or not, Leary’s impact on the cyberdelic counterculture of the 80s and 90s is undeniable. In this paper I have shown that several important figures of the cyber-movement were strongly influenced by Leary (e.g., Douglas Rushkoff, R.U. Sirius, and Bruce Eisner) and that Leary was actually one of the founding fathers of the cyber-movement. As early as 1973, Leary predicted that someday the world would be linked together through a new “electronic nervous system,” a global electronic communication network which would dissolve authoritarian hierarchical structures. In Exo-Pschology (1977), Leary encouraged the hippies to leave the flower-power 60s behind and find a way to live with technology which, according to Leary, could help us to free ourselves from all limits. In his Exo-Psychology theory, Leary laid the ideological foundation for the cyber-movement. In his model of the Eight Circuits of Consciousness, which is explained in Exo-Psychology, Leary defined a “higher” level of consciousness (attained with the help of LSD) on which space, time, body, and normal speech (sending/receiving laryngeal signals) are transcended and people communicate at light speed on the electromagnetic level. This “higher” level of consciousness, the “Neuroelectric Circuit,” was later interpreted by members of the cyber-movement as cyberspace or the Internet (see chapter 3.5.).

Many people are surprised when they hear that Leary, the famous LSD-guru of the hippies, reemerged in the 80s as a spokesman of the cyberpunks, because they can see no connection between the anti-technology-oriented hippies and the cyberpunks who embrace technology. If we analyze Leary’s theories, however, we see that there actually is a strong connection between the psychedelic counterculture of the 60s and the cyberdelic counterculture of the 80s and 90s. We see that the cyberpunks of the 80s and 90s were heavily influenced by the transcendentalism that prevailed in the 60s counterculture (see chapter 4.7.2.). According to Leary, the hippies of the 60s and the cyberpunks of the 80s and 90s actually belong to one and the same movement because they share the same aim: Ecstasy, that is, the experience of individual freedom. Leary argues that the individual freedom revolution started by the hippies in the 60s was continued by cyberpunks in the 80s. According to Leary, this individual freedom movement, which has country by country, continent by continent, liberated much of the world in the last three decades (e.g., the fall of communism in Eastern Europe), would not have been possible without mind-expanding drugs (psychedelics) and mind-linking electronic appliances (computers, radio, TV, etc).

Leary was definitely right when he said that the electronic media (TV, Internet, etc) played a crucial role in the youth revolutions of 1989 which lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the resignation of the hard-line regime in Czechoslovakia. However, when Leary argued that computers, the Internet, and other electronic media have only positive effects (i.e., they create individual freedom), he was definitely wrong. In the 80s, when Leary wrote most of his essays on the cyberpunks and the Internet, it was not so obvious that the decentralization created by the Internet is a double edged sword, that it slowly dissolves old hierarchical political structures while at the same time empowering the powerful, autocratic, multinational corporations. The 80s were the heyday of the cyberpunk-computer-hackers, who dominated the Internet, cracking government files, etc. It was a time when anything seem to be possible because nobody really knew in which direction the Internet would change our society. Now, however, the cyberdelic revolution is over. The cyberdelic counterculture which Leary helped to create is absorbed into the mainstream. This trip is over. The Internet has become a “playing field for a mutating corporate oligarchy.”

Leary’s prediction that the feedback and decentralization made possible by the Internet would help the cyber-movement to create a post-political society based on Ecstasy (i.e., the experience of individual freedom) turned out to be wrong. Leary’s utopian faith in technology blinded him to the real situation on our planet.

5.2. Think for Yourself, Question Authority

I think that this paper shows that Leary was an extremely complex man. He was, first and foremost, the man who brought psychedelic drugs into American culture. He was the undisputed leader of the psychedelic movement. But Leary was also a psychologist, a philosopher, a novelist, one of the most energetic promoters of virtual reality and the Internet, a spokesman of the “new edge” cyberpunks, and an eloquent defender of individual rights. Leary saw himself as a philosopher more than anything else — a philosopher whose duty it was to teach people to “think for themselves and question authority”(cf. DD 6).

In this last chapter I argue that the overall message that Leary wants to communicate in his theories is “Think for yourself; question authority.” I want to show that Leary’s whole

trip from psychedelics to computers to designer dying was to make people aware that they are capable of more than the appointed authorities would prefer to grant them. Leary’s advocacy of psychedelics and computers was to show that people are capable of taking charge of their own brains, hearts, and spirits. For me, Leary is the Socrates of the Information Age because he was one of the few philosophers in our age who carried on the Socratic tradition of encouraging people to “think for themselves and question authority,” his own authority included.

Leary never felt embarrassed when one of his predictions turned out to be wrong. Why? Because he saw himself as a philosopher whose job it was to teach people HOW to think, not WHAT to think (cf. NP 2). Leary wanted to teach people to “think for themselves and question authority.” In every single book he wrote Leary explicitly encourages his readers to “think for themselves and question authority,” his own authority included. In the introduction to Neuropolitique, Leary explains that philosophers in the Information Age “do not come down the mountain with truths carved in stone.” The professional assignment of the philosopher in the Information Age is “to produce new paradigms which will inspire and encourage others to think for themselves. Today philosophers do not give people food for thought. They teach people how to think, how to conceive themselves”(NP 2).

“Don’t believe anything I say. [...] Start Your Own Religion [...] Write Your Own Bible [...] Start Your Own Political System,” Leary writes in The Politics of Ecstasy (PE 369f.). Also, in his last book, Desing for Dying, he repeatedly tells his readers that they should never believe anything he says because he does “not believe in belief”(cf. DD 26, DD 31). For Leary, belief – in the sense of absolute belief, i.e., a dogma – is always something negative. Dogma means stagnation, inflexibility, no choice, and therefore no freedom (cf. CC 232ff.). Leary argues that whatever you blindly believe in imprisons you. Blind belief is the death of the intellect. He compares beliefs to filters in the human perceptual apparatus which filter the information that is received from the outside world. This means that all the information from the outside world which does not confirm one’s belief cannot pass the filter and therefore is ignored (see chapter 4.3.). In Chaos & Cyberculture, Leary explains that a person who clings to one belief system and never questions this belief system will never be able to increase his/her intelligence because his/her mind will shut out any kind of information which is new or cannot be explained within his/her frame of reference (cf. CC 35ff.). Neither will he/she be tolerant towards people with other beliefs (cf. ibid.).

Another reason why Leary rejects dogmas is that they can easily be used to manipulate people. All “power-hungry control freaks” try to impose dogmas on people because they very well know that a dogma is a powerful instrument to create conformity and predictable behavior. In his theories Leary constantly alerts us to the dangers of dogmas and conformity (the Inquisition, the Holy War, the Nazi regime, etc) and tries to make us aware that there is no reason whatsoever why we should accept the dogmas that authorities are trying to impose on us. Again and again he reminds his readers that all dogmas, like all scientific theories, are arbitrary constructions. He tries to make his readers aware of the fact that science, like all cultural phenomena, is socially determined – blinkered by the biases of the society that produced it and dedicated it to the validation of its own worldview. While supposedly objective, science often aids and abets political ideology and cultural bias. Like the constructivists, Leary argues that anybody who claims that his/her belief system (model of reality) is the absolute truth is simply wrong. You create your own reality. Ergo, “think for yourself, question authority”.

Leary wants us to take responsibility for our own lives (this is a logical consequence of the constructivist worldview), not to pass on the responsibility for ourselves to somebody else – be it a politician, scientists, or an “omnipotent” God (Christ, Allah, etc) who resides somewhere up in heaven. “God is not a tribal father, nor a feudal lord, nor an engineer-manager of the universe. There is no God (in the singular) except you at the moment [italics mine],” Leary explains. “Since God #1 appears to be held hostage back there by the blood-thirsty Persian ayatollah, by the telegenic Polish pope, and the Moral Majority, there’s only one logical alternative. You ‘steer’ your own course. You and your dear friends start your own religion. [...] Write your very own Newest Testament, remembering that voluntary martyrdom is tacky, and crucifications, like nuclear war, can ruin your day” (CC 234f.).

When Leary advises us to start our own religion he does not mean that we should found a religion that is based on dogmas. Dogmas are static; they “imprison” us, which means that they are not good for our personal intellectual and spiritual development. But what are the alternatives to dogma? According to Leary, the idea of belief can be broken down into two categories: dogmas, which are absolute beliefs, and meta-beliefs, which are relative beliefs (cf. ibid.). The idea of meta-belief is based on the constructivist assumption that “reality” is a construction of out minds. “Meta-belief” means that you consciously program yourself to believe in something, knowing that your belief is not the absolute truth but a construction of your mind. It means that you are aware that your beliefs are programs in your brain which can arbitrarily changed. For Leary, it was not really important that we do not (or cannot) know anything about objective reality. Leary’s aim was freedom of the mind, Ecstasy (i.e., the experience of freedom from all limits). Ecstasy, “ex-stasis,” is the opposite of “stasis”(which means that you have a static worldview). According to Leary, in the mind there are no limits except those that you set for yourself. “You can change and mutate and keep improving. The idea is to keep ‘trading up’ to a ‘better’ philosophy-theology,” Leary writes (CC 234). As John Lilly put it, “In the province of the mind, what is believed to be true is true or becomes true, within limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind, there are no limits” (Lilly 1972: xvi).

Philosophers who encourage people to think for themselves, question authority and create their own religion/politics have always been considered to be dangerous, heretical, immoral, blasphemous by law-and-order fanatics. Socrates was one of these philosophers who was accused “by conservative minds of the dangerous game of discomfiting all authority before a circle of impressionable youths and subtracting from the state the stability of tradition [...] his unsettling effect on the young and his persistent criticism were intolerable to any establishment”(Harkavy 1991: 531). Leary is the Socrates of the Information Age. In our age there are very few philosophers (e.g., Paul Feyerabend, or Robert Anton Wilson) who carry on the Socratic tradition of encouraging people to think for themselves and question authority, their own authority included. Leary was perhaps the most enthusiastic of these humanistic philosophers.

Like Socrates, Leary tried to make people aware that what we accept as objective reality is only a construction of our minds and that the only way to realize our true selves is to question everything we have learned from our parents, teachers, politicians, etc (cf. ibid.). Socrates’ method to make people think about unquestioned “truths” was asking them questions until they themselves realized that they actually “knew nothing” (in the sense of absolute knowledge). This is what Socrates called the “knowledge of not-knowing”(cf. ibid.). Leary’s method was to confront people with his provocative theories which were intended to make people question the models of reality that authorities imposed on them, and to encourage people to create their own (funnier, sexier, more optimistic) realities. Technology (computers, LSD, etc) would help us to liberate ourselves from authority and to create our own realities.

Leary was very unpopular among academics because he did not follow the rules an academic philosopher or psychologist is supposed to follow. Leary’s theories are a mixture of fact and fiction and often you do not know if the pseudo-scientific explanations Leary gives to back his far-out ideas, are meant seriously or if they are meant as a joke. Furthermore, many of Leary’s arguments involve contradictions and often he quotes somebody without giving the source of the quotation, which can drive a serious critic crazy. Leary, however, did not seem to feel embarrassed about the inconsistencies in his theories. On the contrary, I think that he wanted to be chaotic and uncontrollable, and defy the laws of western linear reason. Leary wanted create a language (i.e., a way of thinking) that cannot be controlled by those who are trying to impose the status quo and a linear view. People who believe exclusively in a linear straight forward way of thinking cannot understand Leary. You cannot control someone you do not understand because you are just not able to predict the person’s next thought/action — and so, I believe, Leary has achieved at least one of his objectives: to be uncontrollable.

According to Leary, the basic nature of the universe is chaos, extreme complexity that cannot be understood by the human mind so far. What we know is that “change and disequilibrium are the driving forces of the universe” and that stability is an illusion (cf. DD 52f.). Leary never grew tired of pointing out that politicians, priests and (most) scientists try to make people believe in the idea of stability because they want to remain in power. They try to impose a static worldview on us because they know that you can control a stable, predictable system, but there is no way to control a chaotic system that is continually changing. According to Leary, this is the reason why the government is against psychedelic drugs. Psychedelic drugs would make us aware that stability is an illusion and “that we have been programmed all those years, that everything we accept as reality is just a social fabrication”(FB 33).

Leary’s way of thinking is chaotic and unpredictable. This is why we can never fully understand Leary. However, what we can learn from him is how to become more flexible, open-minded, and creative — qualities that are very important if we want to survive in our modern Information Society in which the change rate is accelerating beyond comprehension and control. Leary wants to teach us to “go with the flow” – not to cling to idea-structures, but to change, to evolve (cf. CC xiv). “Be cool. Don’t panic. Chaos is good. Chaos creates infinite possibilities,” Leary says (ibid.). To go with the flow means that you think for yourself and that you are not afraid of change. It means that you accept the fact that you live in a chaotic world that is continually changing. You cannot control chaos, but you can learn to “surf the waves of chaos.”

Surf’s up. Enjoy your ride.




The Psychedelic Experience,1964.


Neuropolitique, 1988b.


Info-Psychology, 1990a.


Flashbacks, 1990b.


The Politics of Ecstasy, 1990c.


Chaos and Cyberculture,1994.


Design for Dying, 1997.

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Leary, Timothy. „Social Dimensions of Personality.“ Ph.D. thesis, University of California, 1950.

Leary, Timothy. The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality. John Wiley, 1957.

Leary, Timothy. The Existential Transaction. Psychological Consultation Service, 1957.

Leary, Timothy. The Psychedelic Experience. University Books, 1964.

Leary, Timothy. The Psychedelic Experience. Translated into HTML by Den Walter. Online. Internet. 20 Mar. 1998. Available

Leary, Timothy. You can be anyone this time around.(LP) London: UFO Records, 1972.

Leary, Timothy. Neuropolitics. San Diego: 88 Books, 1977a.

Leary, Timothy. Exo-Psychology. San Diego: 88 Books, 1977b.

Leary, Timothy. The Game of Life. San Diego: 88 Books, 1977c.

Leary, Timothy. The Intelligence Agents. Peace Press, 1979 (Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon, 1996).

Leary, Timothy. What does WoMan want? Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon , 1988a.

Leary, Timothy. Neuropolitique. Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon , 1988b.

Leary, Timothy. Info-Psychology. Las Vegas: Falcon Press, 1990a.

Leary, Timothy. Flashbacks. New York: Putnam, 1990b.

Leary, Timothy. The Politics of Ecstasy. Berkeley: Ronin, 1990c.

Leary, Timothy. Chaos and Cyberculture. Berkeley: Ronin, 1994.

Leary, Timothy. High Priest. Berkeley: Ronin, 1995.

Leary, Timothy. Neurologic. Löhrbach, Germany: Werner Pieper’s Medienexperimente, 1996.

Leary, Timothy. Psychedelic Prayers and Other Meditations. Berkeley: Ronin, 1997a.

Leary, Timothy. Design for Dying. San Francisco: Harper, 1997b.

Secondary sources:

Alli, Antero. Angel Tech – A modern Shaman’s Guide to Reality Selection. Las Vegas: Falcon, 1996.

Benedikt, Michael. Cyberspace: First Steps. Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1991.

Bertram, Eva, et al. Drug war politics: the price of denial. Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1996.

Brewster, Roger. “Dr. Timothy Leary Interview.” Telegraph (10.1995). n. pag. Online. Internet. 20 Mar. 1998. Available

Buick, Joanna, and Zoran Jevtic. Cyberspace for Beginners. Cambridge: Icon, 1995.

Bukatman, Scott. Terminal Identity. Durham and London: Duke UP, 1993.

Capra, Fritjof. The Turning Point. New York: Bantam, 1982.

Dery, Mark. Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996.

Davis, Paul. Timothy Leary is dead. A film produced by Arts & Education Media, Inc., Berkeley, CA, 1996. (Broadcast on ORF, 1997.)

Eisner, Bruce. “Timothy Leary’s Ultimate Trip.” Psychedelic Island Views. Vol. 2, Issue 2 (1996) pp. 5–9.

Eisner, Bruce. Ecstasy: The MDMA Story. Berkeley: Ronin, 1989.

Eisner, Bruce. “Bruce Eisner’s Story.” n. pag. Online. Internet. 17 June 1998. Available

Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds. Filmed by Constanzo Allione. Manufactured and distributed by Mystic Fire Video. New York, 1978.

Eisner, Bruce, ed. Psychedelic Island Views. Vol. 2, Issue 2 (1996).

Eisner, Bruce, ed. Psychedelic Island Views. Vol. 3, Issue 1 (1997).

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. London: HarperCollins, 1995.

Grof, Stanislov. Realms of the Human Unconscious. New York: Dutton, 1976.

Harkavy, Michael, ed. The New Webster’s International Encyclopedia. Naples, Florida: Trident Press, 1991.

Hofmann, Albert. LSD: My Problemchild. New York: McGraw-Mill, 1980.

Huxley, Aldous. Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Engl.: Penguin, 1972.

Island Foundation. n. pag. Online. Internet. 17 June 1998. Available

Jung, Carl Gustav. “The concept of the Collective Unconscious” The Collected Works of Carl G. Jung. Ed. Read et al. Vol. 9 Princeton: Princeton UP, 1936.

Kroker, Arthur, and Marilouise Kroker. Digital Delirium. Montreal: New World Perspectives, 1997.

Lilly, John. Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Bio-Computer. New York: Julian Press, 1967.

McKenna, Terence, and Dennis McKenna. The Invisible Landscape. New York: Seabury Press, 1975.

McKenna, Terence. Food of the Gods. London: Rider, 1992.

McKenna, Terence. Home page

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media. New York: McGraw Hill, 1964.

McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage. New York: Bantam, 1967.

McLuhan, Marshall. Counter Blast. Toronto: McClelland and Steward, 1969.

Roszak, Theodore. The making of a counterculture. Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1995.

Rucker, Rudy, R. U. Sirius, and Queen Mu, eds. Mondo 2000: a user’s guide to the new edge. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Rushkoff, Douglas. Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995.

Rushkoff, Douglas. “Loved by Leary”. Psychedelic Island Views. Vol. 2, Issue 2 (1996) p. 47.

Rushkoff, Douglas. Email to the author (containing an article published in the Guardian of London: “Timothy, Allen, and Bill: Godfathers of Cyberspace). 11 Sept. 1997.

Rushkoff, Douglas. Ecstasy Club. New York: Harper, 1997.

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Spivey, Nancy Nelson. The Constructivist Metaphor. San Diego: Academic Press, 1997.

Stafford, Peter. Psychedelics Encyclopedia. Berkeley: Ronin, 1992.

Six, Gary. “Waiting for Breakthroughs”. n. pag. Online. Internet. 16 Mai 1998. Available Sterling, Bruce, ed. Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology. New York: Arbor House, 1986.

Wasson, R. Gordon. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. New York, Harcourt: Brace, 1968.

Watzlawick, Paul, ed. The invented reality. New York: Norton, 1984.

Watzlawick, Paul, ed. Die erfundene Wirklichkeit. München: Piper, 1998.

Weil, G. ,ed. The Psychedelic Reader. Secaucus, New Yersy: The Citadel Press, 1973.

Williams, Paul. Das Energi. New York: Warner Books, 1978.

Wilson, Robert Anton. Prometheus Rising. Las Vegas: Falcon Press, 1983.

Wilson, Robert Anton. Quantum Psychology. Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon, 1996.

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Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. New York: Bantam, 1969.

25. Political Prisoners, Prisons, and Black Liberation

Deleted reason: unpublished pending further conversation

Author: Angela Y. Davis

Authors: Angela Davis

Topics: police, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, Black Liberation, prison, United States of America, Not Anarchist

Date: May, 1971

Date Published on T@L: 2021-03-03T05:37:54

Source: <>

Notes: This is a good short video to go along with the reading: <>

Despite a long history of exalted appeals to man’s inherent right to resistance, there has seldom been agreement on how to relate in practice to unjust immoral laws and the oppressive social order from which they emanate. The conservative, who does not dispute the validity of revolutions deeply buried in history, invokes visions of impending anarchy in order to legitimize his demand for absolute obedience. Law and order, with the major emphasis on order, is his watchword. The liberal articulates his sensitivity to certain of society’s intolerable details, but will almost never prescribe methods of resistance that exceed the limits of legality — redress through electoral channels is the liberal’s panacea.

In the heat of our pursuit of fundamental human rights, black people have been continually cautioned to be patient. We are advised that as long as we remain faithful to the existing democratic order, the glorious moment will eventually arrive when we will come into our own as full-fledged human beings.

But having been taught by bitter experience, we know that there is a glaring incongruity between democracy and the capitalist economy which is the source of our ills. Regardless of all rhetoric to the contrary, the people are not the ultimate matrix of the laws and the system which govern them — certainly not black people and other nationally oppressed people, but not even the mass of whites. The people do not exercise decisive control over the determining factors of their lives.

Officials assertions that meaningful dissent is always welcome, provided it falls within the boundaries of legality, are frequently a smokescreen obscuring the invitation to acquiesce in oppression. Slavery may have been unrighteous, the constitutional precision for the enslavement of blacks may have been unjust, but conditions were not to be considered so bearable (especially since they were profitable to a small circle) as to justify escape and other acts proscribed by law. This was the import of the fugitive slave laws.

Needless to say, the history of the Unites States has been marred from its inception by an enormous quantity of unjust laws, far too many expressly bolstering the oppression of black people. Particularized reflections of existing social inequities, these law have repeatedly born witness to the exploitative and racist core of the society itself. For blacks, Chicanos, for all nationally oppressed people, the problem of opposing unjust laws and the social conditions which nourish their growth, has always had immediate practical implications. Our very survival has frequently been a direct function of our skill in forging effective channels of resistance. In resisting we have societies been compelled to openly violate those laws which directly or indirectly buttress our oppression. But even containing our resistance within the orbit of legality, we have been labels criminals and have been methodically persecuted by a racist legal apparatus.

Under the ruthless conditions of slavery, the underground railroad provided the framework for extra-legal anti-slavery activity pursued by vast numbers of people, both black and white. Its functioning was in flagrant violations of the fugitive slave law; those who were apprehended were subjected to sever penalties. Of the innumerable recorded attempts to rescue fugitive slaves from the clutches of slave catchers, one of the most striking in the case of Anthony Burns, a slave from Virginia, captured in Boston in 1853. A team of his supporters, in attempting to rescue him by force during the course of his trial, engaged the police in a fierce courtroom battle. During the gun fight, a prominent Abolitionist, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, was wounded. Although the rescuers were unsuccessful in their efforts, the impact of this incident “…did more to crystallize Northern sentiment against slavery than any other except the exploit of John Brown, ‘ and this was the last time a fugitive slave was taken from Boston. It took 22 companies of state militia, four platoons of marines, a battalion of United States artillerymen, and the city’s police force … to ensure the performance of this shameful act, the cost of which, the Federal government alone, came to forty thousand dollars.’”

Throughout the era of slavery, blacks, as well as progressive whites, repeatedly discovered that their commitment to the anti-slavery cause frequently entailed the overt violation of the laws of the land. Even as slavery faded away into a more subtle yet equally pernicious apparatus to dominate black people, “illegal” resistance was still on the agenda. After the Civil War, Black Codes, successors to the old Slave Codes, legalized convict labor, prohibited social intercourse between blacks and whites, gave white employers an excessive degree of control over the private lives of black workers, and generally codified racism and terror. Naturally, numerous individual as well as collective acts of resistance prevailed. On many occasions, blacks formed armed teams to protect themselves form while terrorists who were, in turn, protected by law enforcement agencies, if not actually identified with them.

By the second decade of the twentieth century, the mass movement, headed by Marcus Garvey, proclaimed in its Declaration of Rights that black people should not hesitate to disobey all discriminatory laws. Moreover, the Declaration announced, they should utilize all means available to them, legal or illegal, to defend themselves from legalized terror as well as Ku Klux Klan violence. During the era of intense activity around civil rights issues, systematic disobedience of oppressive laws was a primary tactic. The sitins were organized transgressions of racist legislation.

All these historical instances involving the overt violation of the laws of the land converge around an unmistakable common denominator. At stake has been the collective welfare and survival of a people. There is a distinct and qualitative difference between one breaking a law for one’s own individual self-interest and violating it in the interests of a class of people whose oppression is expressed either directly or indirectly through that particular law. The former might be called criminal (though in many instances he is a victim), but the latter, as a reformist or revolutionary, is interested in universal social change. Captured, he or she is a political prisoner.

The political prisoner’s words or deed have in one from or another embodied political protests against the established order and have consequently brought him into acute conflict with the state. In light of the political content of his act, the “crime” (which may or may not have been committed) assumes a minor importance. In this country, however, where the special category of political prisoners is not officially acknowledged, the political prisoner inevitably stands trial for a specific criminal offense, not for a political act. Often the so-called crime does not even have a nominal existence. As in the 1914 murder frame-up of the IWW organizer, Joe Hill, it is a blatant fabrication, a mere excuse for silencing a militant crusader against oppression. In all instances, however, the political prisoner has violated the unwritten law which prohibits disturbances and upheavals in the status quo of exploitation and racism.. This unwritten law has been contested by actually and explicitly breaking a law or by utilizing constitutionally protected channels to educate, agitate, and organize masses to resist.

A deep-seated ambivalence has always characterized the official response to the political prisoner. Charged and tried for the criminal act, his guilt is always political in nature. This ambivalence is perhaps best captured by Judge Webster Thayer’s comment upon sentencing Bartolomero Vanzetti to fifteen years for an attempted payroll robbery: “This man, although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless morally culpable, because he is an enemy of our existing institutions.” (The very same judge incidentally, sentences Sacco and Vanzetti to death for a robbery and murder of which they were manifestly innocent). It is not surprising that Nazi Germany’s foremost constitutional lawyers, Carl Schmitt, advanced the theory which generalized thus a priori culpability. A thief, for example, was not necessarily one who had committed an overt act of theft, but rather one whose character renders him a thief (wer nach seinem wesen win Dieb ist). [President Richard] Nixon’s and [FBI Director]

J. Edgar Hoover’s pronouncements lead on to believe that they would readily accept Schmitt’s fascist legal theory. Anyone who seeks to overthrow oppressive institutions, whether or not he has engaged in an overt act, is a priori a criminal who must be buried away in one of America’s dungeons.

Even in all of Martin Luther King’s numerous arrests, he was not so much charged with the nominal crimes of trespassing, and disturbance of the peace, as with being enemy of he southern society, an inveterate foe of racism. When Robert Williams was accused of kidnapping, this charge never managed to conceal his real offense — the advocacy of black people’s incontestable right to bear arms in their own defense.

The offense of the political prisoner is political boldness, the persistent challenging — legally or extra-legally — of fundamental social wrongs fostered and reinforced by the state. The political prisoner has opposed unjust laws and exploitative, racist social conditions in general, with the ultimate aim of transforming these laws and this society into an order harmonious with the material and spiritual needs and interests of the vast majority of its members.

Nat Turner and John Brown were political prisoners in their time. The acts for which they were charged and subsequently hanged, were the practical extensions of their profound commitment to the abolition of slavery. They fearlessly bore the responsibility for their actions. The significance of their executions and the accompanying widespread repression did not lie so much in the fact that they were being punished for specific crimes, nor even in the effort to use their punishment as an implicit threat to deter others from similar armed acts of resistance. These executions, and the surrounding repression of slaves, were intended to terrorize the anti-slavery movement in general; to discourage and diminish both legal and illegal forms of abolitionist activity. As usual, the effect of repression was miscalculated and in both instances, anti-slavery activity was accelerated and intensified as a result.

Nat Turner and John Brown can be viewed as examples of the political prisoner who has actually committed an act which is defined by the state as “criminal”. They killed and were consequently tried for murder. But did they commit murder? This raises the question of whether American revolutionaries had murdered the British in their struggle for liberation. Nat Turner and his followers killed some sixty-five white people, yet shortly before the revolt had begun, Nat is reputed to have said to the other rebelling slaves: “Remember that ours is not war for robbery nor to satisfy our passions, it is a struggle for freedom. Ours must be deeds and not words”,

The very institutions which condemned Nat Turner and reduced his struggle for freedom to a simpler criminal case of murder, owed their existence to the decision, made a half-century earlier, to take up arms against the British oppressor.

The battle for the liquidation of slavery had no legitimate existence in the eyes of the government and therefore the special quality of deeds carried out in the interests of freedom was deliberately ignored. There were no political prisoners, there were only criminals; just as the movement out of which these deeds flowed was largely considered criminal.

Likewise, the significance of activities which are pursued in the interests of liberation today is minimized not so much because officials are unable to see the collective surge against oppression, but because they have consciously set out to subvert such movements. In the Spring of 1970, Los Angeles Panthers took up arms to defend themselves from an assault initiated by the local police force on their office and on their persons. They were charged with criminal assault. If one believed the official propaganda, they were bandits and rogues who pathologically found pleasure in attacking policemen. It was not mentioned that their community activities — educational work, services such as free breakfast and free medical programs — which had legitimized them in the black community, were the immediate reason for which the wrath of the police had fallen upon them. In defending themselves from the attack waged by some 600 policemen (there were only eleven Panthers in the office) they were defending not only their lives, but even more important their accomplishments in the black community surrounding them, and in the boarded thrust for black liberation. Whenever blacks in struggle have recourse to self-defense, particular armed selfdefense, it is twisted and distorted on official levels and ultimately rendered synonymous with criminal aggression. On the other hand, when policemen are clearly indulging in acts of criminal aggression, officially they are defending themselves through “justifiable assault” or “justifiable homicide”.

The ideological acrobatics characteristics of official attempts to explain away the existence of the political prisoner do not end with the equation of the individual political act with the individual criminal act. The political act is defined as criminal in order to discredit radical and revolutionary movements. A political event is reduced to a criminal event in order to affirm the absolute invulnerability of the existing order. In a revealing contradiction, the court resisted the description of the New York Panther 21 trial as “political”, yet the prosecutor entered as evidence of criminal intent, literature which represented, so he purported, the political ideology of the Black Panther Party.

The legal apparatus designates the black liberation fighter a criminal, prompting Nixon, (Vice President Spiro) Agnew, (California Governor Ronald) Reagan et al. to process to mystify with their demagogy millions of Americans whose senses have been dulled and whose critical powers have been eroded by the continual onslaught of racist ideology.

As the black liberation movement and other progressive struggles increase in magnitude and intensity, the judicial system and its extension, the penal system, consequently become key weapons in the state’s fight to preserve the existing conditions of class domination, therefore racism, poverty and war.

In 1951, W.E.B. Du Bois, as Chairman of the Peace Information Center, was indicted by the federal government for “failure to register as an agent of a foreign principal”. In assessing this ordeal, which occurred in the ninth decade of his life, he turned his attention to the inhabitants of the nation’s jails and prisons:

What turns me cold in all this experience is the certainty that thousands of innocent victims are in jail today because they had neither money nor friends to help them. The eyes of the world were on our trial despite the desperate efforts of press and radio to suppress the facts and cloud the real issues; the courage and money of friends and of strangers who dared stand for a principle freed me; but God only knows how many who were as innocent as I and my colleagues are today in hell. They daily stagger out of prison doors embittered, vengeful, hopeless, ruined. And of this army of the wronged, the proportion of Negroes is frightful. We protect and defend sensational cases where Negroes are involved. But the great mass of arrested or accused black folk have no defense. There is desperate need of nationwide organizations to oppose this national racket of railroading to jails and chain gangs the poor, friendless and black.

Almost two decades passed before the realization attained by Du Bois on the occasion of his own encounter with the judicial system achieved extensive acceptance. A number of factors have combined to transform the penal system into a prominent terrain of struggle, both for the captives inside and the masses outside. The impact of large numbers of political prisoners both on prison populations and on the mass movement has been decisive. The vast majority of political prisoners have not allowed the fact of imprisonment to curtail their educational, agitational, and organizing activities, which they continue behind prison walls. And in the course of developing mass movements around political prisoners, a great deal of attention has inevitably been focused on the institutions in which they are imprisoned. Furthermore the political receptivity of prisoners — especially black and brown captives — has been increased and sharpened by the surge of aggressive political activity rising out of black, Chicano, and other oppressed communities. Finally, a major catalyst for intensified political action in and around prisons has emerged out of the transformation of convicts, originally found guilty of criminal offenses, into exemplary political militants. Their patient educational efforts in the realm of exposing the specific oppressive structures of the penal system in their relation to the larger oppression of the social system have had a profound effect on their fellow captives.

The prison is a key component of state’s coercive apparatus, the overriding function of which is to ensure social control. They etymology of the term “penitentiary” furnishes a clue to the controlling idea behind the “prison system” at its inception. The penitentiary was projected as the locale for doing penitence for an offense against society, the physical and spiritual purging of proclivities to challenge rules and regulations which command total obedience. While cloaking itself with the bourgeois aura of universality — imprisonment was supposed to cut across all class lines, as crimes were to be defined by the act, not the perpetrator — the prison has actually operated as an instrument of class domination, a means of prohibiting the have-nots from encroaching upon the haves.

The occurrence of crime is inevitable in a society in which wealth is unequally distributed, as one of the constant reminders that society’s productive forces are being channeled in the wrong direction. The majority of criminal offenses bear a direct relationship to property. Contained in the very concept of property, crimes are profound but suppressed social needs which express themselves in anti-social modes of action. Spontaneously produced by a capitalist organization of society, this type of crime is at once a protest against society and a desire to partake of its exploitative content. It challenges the symptoms of capitalism, but not its essence.

Some Marxists in recent years have tended to banish “criminals” and the lumpenproletariat as a whole from the arena of revolutionary struggle. Apart from the absence of any link binding the criminal to the means of production, underlying this exclusion has been the assumption that individuals who have recourse to anti-social acts are incapable of developing the discipline and collective orientation required by revolutionary struggle.

With the declassed character of lumpenproletarians in mind, Marx had stated that they are as capable of “the most heroic deeds and the most exalted sacrifices, as of the basest banditry and the dirties corruption”. He emphasized the fact that the provisional government’s mobile guards under the Paris Commune — some 24,000 troops — were largely formed out of young lumpenproletarians from fifteen to twenty years of age. Too many Marxists have been inclined to overvalue the second part of Marx’s observation — that the lumpenproletariat is capable of the basest banditry and the dirtiest corruption — while minimizing or indeed totally disregarding his first remark, applauding the lumpen for their heroic deeds and exalted sacrifices.

Especially today when so many black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican men and women are jobless as a consequence of the internal dynamic of the capitalist system, the role of the unemployed, which includes the lumpenproletariat in revolutionary struggle, must be given serious thought. Increased unemployment, particularly for the nationally oppressed, will continue to be an inevitable by-product of technological development. At least 30 percent of black youth are presently without jobs. (In 1997, over 30 percent of black men were in prison, on probation or on parole.) In the context of class exploitation and national oppression it should be clear that numerous individuals are compelled to resort to criminal acts, not as a result of conscious choice — implying other alternatives — but because society has objectively reduced their possibilities of subsistence and survival to this level. This recognition should signal the urgent need to organize the unemployed and lumpenproletariat, as indeed the Black Panther Party as well as activists in prison have already begun to do.

In evaluating the susceptibility of the black and brown unemployed to organizing efforts, the peculiar historical features of the US, specifically racism and national oppression, must be taken into account. There already exists in the black and brown communities, the lumpenproletariat included, a long tradition of collective resistance to national oppression.

Moreover, in assessing the revolutionary potential of prisoners in America as a group, it should be borne in mind that not all prisoners have actually committed crimes. The built-in racism of the judicial system expresses itself, as Du Bois has suggested, in the railroading of countless innocent blacks and other national minorities into the country’s coercive institutions.

One must also appreciate the effects of disproportionately long prison terms on black and brown inmates. The typical criminal mentality sees imprisonment as a calculated risk for a particular criminal act. One’s prison term is more or less rationally predictable. The function of racism in the judicial-penal complex is to shatter that predictability. The black burglar, anticipating a two-to four-year term, may end up doing ten to fifteen years, while the white burglar leaves after two years.

Within the contained, coercive universe of the prison, the captive is confronted with the realities of racism, not simply as individual acts dictated by attitudinal bias; rather he is compelled to come to grips with racism as an institutional phenomenon collectively experienced by the victims. The disproportionate representation of the black and brown communities, the manifest racism of parole boards, the intense brutality inherent in the relationship between prison guards and black and brown inmates — all this and more causes the prisoner to be confronted daily, hourly, with the concentrated systematic existence of racism.

For the innocent prisoner, the process of radicalization should come easy; for the “guilty” victim, the insight into the nature of racism as it manifests itself in the judicialpenal complex can lead to a questioning of his own past criminal activity and a reevaluation of the methods he has used to survive in a racist and exploitative society. Needless to say, this process is not automatic, it does not occur spontaneously. The persistent educational work carried out by the prison’s political activists plays a key role in developing the political potential of captive men and women.

Prisoners — especially blacks, Chicanos and Puerto Ricans — are increasingly advancing the proposition that they are political prisoners. They contend that they are political prisoners in the sense that they are largely the victims of an oppressive politico-economic order, swiftly becoming conscious of the causes underlying their victimization. The Folsom Prisoners’ Manifesto of Demands and Anti-Oppression Platform attests to a lucid understanding of the structures of oppression within the prison — structures which contradict even the avowed function of the penal institution: “The program we are submitted to, under the ridiculous title of rehabilitation, is relative to the ancient stupidity of pouring water on the drowning man, in as much as we are treated for our hostilities by our program administrators with their hostility for medication.” The Manifesto also reflects an awareness that the severe social crisis taking place in this country, predicated in part on the ever-increasing mass consciousness of deepening social contradictions, is forcing the political function of the prisons to surface in all its brutality. Their contention that prisons are being transformed into the “fascist concentration camps of modern America,” should not be taken lightly, although it would be erroneous as well as defeatist in a practical sense, to maintain that fascism has irremediably established itself.

The point is this, and this is the truth which is apparent in the Manifesto: the ruling circles of America are expanding and intensifying repressive measures designed to nip revolutionary movements in the bud as well as to curtail radical-democratic tendencies, such as the movement to end the war in Indochina. The government is not hesitating to utilize an entire network of fascist tactics, including the monitoring of congressman’s telephone calls, a system of “preventive fascism”, as Marcuse has termed it, in which the role of the judicial-penal systems looms large. The sharp edge of political repression, cutting through the heightened militancy of the masses, and bringing growing numbers of activists behind prison walls, must necessarily pour over into the contained world of the prison where it understandably acquires far more ruthless forms.

It is a relatively easy matter to persecute the captive whose life is already dominated by a network of authoritarian mechanisms. This is especially facilitated by the indeterminate sentence policies of many states, for politically conscious prisoners will incur inordinately long sentences on the original conviction. According to Louis S. Nelson, warden of the San Quentin Prison, “if the prisons of California become known as schools for violent revolution, the Adult Authority would be remiss in their duty not to keep the inmates longer” (San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 1971). Where this is deemed inadequate, authorities have recourse to the whole spectrum of brutal corporal punishment, including out and out murder. At San Quentin, Fred Billingslea was teargassed to death in February 1970. W. L. Nolen, Alvin Miller, and Cleveland Edwards were assassinated by a prison guard in January 1970, at Soledad Prison. Unusual and inexplicable “suicides” have occurred with incredible regularity in jails and prisons throughout the country.

It should be self-evident that the frame-up becomes a powerful weapon within the spectrum of prison repression, particularly because of the availability of informers, the broken prisoners who will do anything for a price. The Soledad Brothers and the Soledad Three are leading examples of frame-up victims. Both cases involve militant activists who have been charged with killing Soledad prison guards. In both cases, widespread support has been kindled within the California prison system. They have served as occasions to link the immediate needs of the black community with a forceful fight to break the fascist stronghold in the prisons and therefore to abolish the prison system in its present form.

Racist oppression invades the lives of black people on an infinite variety of levels. Blacks are imprisoned in a world where our labor and toil hardly allow us to eke out a decent existence, if we are able to find jobs at all. When the economy begins to falter, we are forever the first victims, always the most deeply wounded. When the economy is on its feet, we continue to live in a depressed state. Unemployment is generally twice as high in the ghettos as it is in the country as a whole and even higher among black women and youth. The unemployment rate among black youth has presently skyrocketed to 30 percent. If one-third of America’s white youths were without a means of livelihood, we would either be in the thick of revolution or else under the iron rule of fascism. Substandard schools, medical care hardly fit for animals, over-priced, dilapidated housing, a welfare system based on a policy of skimpy concessions, designed to degrade and divide (and even this may soon be canceled) — this is only the beginning of the list of props in the overall scenery of oppression which, for the mass of blacks, is the universe.

In black communities, wherever they are located, there exists an ever-present reminder that our universe must remain stable in its drabness, its poverty, its brutality. From Birmingham to Harlem to Watts, black ghettos are occupied, patrolled and often attacked by massive deployments of police. The police, domestic caretakers of violence, are the oppressor’s emissaries, charged with the task of containing us within the boundaries of our oppression.

The announced function of the police, “to protect and serve the people,” becomes the grotesque caricature of protecting and preserving the interests of our oppressors and serving us nothing but injustice. They are there to intimidate blacks, to persuade us with their violence that we are powerless to alter the conditions of our lives. Arrests are frequently based on whims. Bullets from their guns murder human beings with little or no pretext, aside from the universal intimidation they are charged with carrying out. Protection for drug-pushers, and Mafia-style exploiters, support for the most reactionary ideological elements of the black community (especially those who cry out for more police), are among the many functions of forces of law and order. They encircle the community with a shield of violence, too often forcing the natural aggression of the black community inwards. Fanon’s analysis of the role of colonial police is an appropriate description of the function of the police in America’s ghettos.

It goes without saying that the police would be unable to set into motion their racist machinery were they not sanctioned and supported by the judicial system. The courts not only consistently abstain from prosecuting criminal behavior on the part of the police, but they convict, on the basis of biased police testimony, countless black men and women. Court-appointed attorneys, acting in the twisted interests of overcrowded courts, convince 85 percent of the defendants to plead guilty. Even the manifestly innocent are advised to cop a plea so that the lengthy and expensive process of jury trials is avoided. This is the structure of the apparatus which summarily railroads black people into jails and prisons. (During my imprisonment in the New York Women’s House of Detention, I encountered numerous cases involving innocent black women who had been advised to plead guilty. One sister had entered her white landlord’s apartment for the purpose of paying rent. He attempted to rape her and in the course of the ensuing struggle, a lit candle toppled over, burning a tablecloth. The landlord ordered her arrested for arson. Following the advice of her court-appointed attorney, she entered a guilty plea, having been deceived by the attorney’s insistence that the court would be more lenient. The sister was sentenced to three years.)

The vicious circle linking poverty, police courts, and prison is an integral element of ghetto existence. Unlike the mass of whites, the path which leads to jails and prisons is deeply rooted in the imposed patterns of black existence. For this very reason, an almost instinctive affinity binds the mass of black people to the political prisoners. The vast majority of blacks harbor a deep hatred of the police and are not deluded by official proclamations of justice through the courts.

For the black individual, contact with the law-enforcement-judicial-penal network, directly or through relatives and friends, is inevitable because he or she is black. For the activist become political prisoner, the contact has occurred because he has lodged a protest, in one form or another, against the conditions which nail blacks to this orbit of oppression.

Historically, black people as a group have exhibited a greater potential for resistance than any other part of the population. The iron-clad rule over our communities, the institutional practice of genocide, the ideology of racism have performed a strictly political as well as an economic function. The capitalists have not only extracted super profits from the underpaid labor of over 15 percent of the American population with the aid of a superstructure of terror. This terror and more subtle forms of racism have further served to thwart the flowering of a resistance — even a revolution that would spread to the working class as a whole.

In the interests of the capitalist class, the consent to racism and terror has been demagogically elicited from the white population, workers included, in order to more efficiently stave off resistance. Today, Nixon, [Attorney General John] Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover are desperately attempting to persuade the population that dissidents, particularly blacks, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, must be punished fro being members of revolutionary organizations; for advocating the overthrow of the government; for agitating and educating in the streets and behind prison walls. The political function of racist domination is surfacing with accelerated intensity. Whites who have professed their solidarity with the black liberation movement and have moved in a distinctly revolutionary direction find themselves targets of the same repression. Even the antiwar movement, rapidly exhibiting an anti-imperialist consciousness, is falling victim to government repression.

Black people are rushing full speed ahead towards an understanding of the circumstances that give rise to exaggerated forms of political repression and thus an overabundance of political prisoners. This understanding is being forged out of the raw material of their own immediate experiences with racism. Hence, the black masses are growing conscious of their responsibility to defend those who are being persecuted for attempting to bring about the alleviation of the most injurious immediate problems facing black communities and ultimately to bring about total liberation through armed revolution, if it must come to this.

The black liberation movement is presently at a critical juncture. Fascist methods of repression threaten to physically decapitate and obliterate the movement. More subtle, yet no less dangerous ideological tendencies from within threaten to isolate the black movement and diminish its revolutionary impact. Both menaces must be counteracted in order to ensure our survival. Revolutionary blacks must spearhead and provide leadership for a broad anti-fascist movement.

Fascism is a process, its growth and development are cancerous in nature. While today, the threat of fascism may be primarily restricted to the use of the law-enforcementjudicial-penal apparatus to arrest the overt and latent revolutionary trends among nationally oppressed people, tomorrow it may attack the working class en masse and eventually even moderate democrats. Even in this period, however, the cancer has already commenced to spread. In addition to the prison army of thousands and thousands of nameless Third World victims of political revenge, there are increasing numbers of white political prisoners — draft resisters, anti-war activists such as the Harrisburg Eight, men and women who have involved themselves on all levels of revolutionary activity.

Among the further symptoms of the fascist threat are official efforts to curtail the power of organized labor, such as the attack on the manifestly conservative construction workers and the trends towards reduced welfare aid. Moreover, court decisions and repressive legislation augmenting police powers — such as the Washington no-knock law, permitting police to enter private dwellings without warning, and Nixon’s “Crime Bill” in general — can eventually be used against any citizen. Indeed congressmen are already protesting the use of police-state wire-tapping to survey their activities. The fascist content of the ruthless aggression in Indo-China should be self-evident.

One of the fundamental historical lessons to be learned from past failures to prevent the rise of fascism is the decisive and indispensable character of the fight against fascism in its incipient phases. Once allowed to conquer ground, its growth is facilitated in geometric proportion. Although the most unbridled expressions of the fascist menace are still tied to the racist domination of blacks, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Indians, it lurks under the surface wherever there is potential resistance to the power of monopoly capital, the parasitic interests which control this society. Potentially it can profoundly worsen the conditions of existence for the average American citizen. Consequently, the masses of people in this country have a real, direct, and material stake in the struggle to free political prisoners, the struggle to abolish the prison system in its present form, the struggle against all dimensions of racism.

No one should fail to take heed of Georgi Dimitrov’s warning: “Whoever does not fight the growth of fascism at these preparatory stages is not in a position to prevent the victory of fascism, but, on the contrary, facilitates that victory” (Report to the VIIth Congress of the Communist International, 1935). The only effective guarantee against the victory of fascism is an indivisible mass movement which refuses to conduct business as usual as long as repression rages on. It is only natural that blacks and other Third World peoples must lead this movement, for we are the first and most deeply injured victims of fascism. But it must embrace all potential victims and most important, all working-class people, for the key to the triumph of fascism is its ideological victory over the entire working class. Given the eruption of a severe economic crisis, the door to such an ideological victory can be opened by the active approval or passive toleration of racism. It is essential that white workers become conscious that historically through their acquiescence in the capitalist-inspired oppression of blacks they have only rendered themselves more vulnerable to attack.

The pivotal struggle which must be waged in the ranks of the working class is consequently the open, unreserved battle against entrenched racism. The whit worker must become conscious of the threads which bind him to a James Johnson, a black auto worker, member of UAW, and a political prisoner presently facing charges for the killings of two foremen and a job setter. The merciless proliferation of the power of monopoly capital may ultimately push him inexorably down the very same path of desperation. No potential victim [of the fascist terror] should be without the knowledge that the greatest menace to racism and fascism is unity!


May, 1971

26. The Anarchistic Devil

Deleted reason: unpublished, need to research author and txt a bit more

Author: Stephen Edred Flowers

Topics: atheism, civilization, God, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, materialism, Mikhail Bakunin, spirituality

Date: 1997

Source: Lords of the Left-Hand Path: A History of Spiritual Dissent

“If God really existed it would be necessary to abolish him.”

― Mikail Bakunin

In his fragmentary work, God and the State, the Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin (1814–1876) at one point assesses humanity in terms of the Edenic myth and says: “[Satan] makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.”[58] As Bakunin saw it, humanity—as an essentially bestial creature—was “endowed in a higher degree than the animals of any other species with two precious faculties—the power to think and the desire to rebel.” His understanding of humanity—his anthropology—held that collectively and individually the development of man was characterized by three principles: human animality, thought and rebellion.

For Bakunin Satan is “the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and emancipator of worlds.”[59] Like most anarchists who derive much of their theory from Roussseau’s idea of the “noble savage,” civilization and its institutions are the chief evils in the world. They must be struck down so that the innate nobility of humanity may emerge as a matter of natural course once freed of all socially determined conventions.

Bakunin was himself more an activist revolutionary than a writer or philosopher—he said “I have no system, I am a seeker.” He is said to have had a love for the mysterious and the irrational. This put him at odds with those he called “doctrinaire communists” who followed the more systematic philosophy of Marx. Both of these philosophies are, however, based on a positivistic materialism. “God” was firmly identified with the idea of “spirit,” so the Devil, God’s opposite, must be—if we choose to use this language—tantamount to the idea of matter. The property of “intelligence” can be ascribed to matter due to its “dynamic nature and evolutionary quality,” according to Bakunin.[60]

This dichotomizing of “matter” and “spirit” (or “intelligence”) is, of course, typical of the modern era. Where such dichotomies can be generated one must be accepted, the other rejected, or so goes conventional thought. All this is modern, all-too-modern. From a left-hand path perspective it is perhaps interesting to remember that ancient Hebrew mythology identified as “Satanic” both the existence of the flesh (nature/matter) and the presence of intelligence (as a result of rebellion).

While the ideas of Bakunin lived on in a vague obscurity—and continue to do so today among all those who oppose authority in all its forms—the ideas of Marx have had a much more doctrinaire and institutionalized history. This history was to be played out not in the industrialized capitalist strongholds of western Europe but in the still largely feudalistic, pre-industrial Russia.

27. The Devil and Karl Marx

Author: Stephen Edred Flowers

Topics: atheism, communism, dialectics, God, Hegel, Karl Marx, marxism, materialism, rationalism, religion

Date: 1997

Date Published on T@L: 2024-05-16T21:43:10.940Z

Source: Lords of the Left-Hand Path: A History of Spiritual Dissent. <>

For conservatives over the past century and a half or more the ideas of revolutionary communism have been virtually synonymous with a cosmic Satanic conspiracy—from Pope Pius IX to John Birch and beyond. Before these apparent ravings are dismissed out of hand, we might find it interesting to explore the philosophies of Marx and other socialist/materialist thinkers from a left-hand path viewpoint.

Karl Marx (1818–1883) did not invent communism or historical materialism, but he was an original synthesizer and codifier of a range of philosophical, economic and sociopolitical ideas into a theoretically coherent whole. This ideology could then be more forcefully disseminated than had been the case with the loose association of concepts that marked related pre-Marxist movements.

Marx was bom in Trier, Germany on 5 May 1818 to an ethnically Jewish family.[61] His father, Heinrich, had converted to Lutheranism just the year before. Karl was brought up entirely in the Lutheran faith. In 1835 he went to study law at the university of Bonn, but transferred to Berlin the following year where he was quickly “converted” to philosophy under the influence of the “Young Hegelians,” a group of intellectuals engaged in the transformation of Hegel’s historical idealism into historical materialism.

Marx had planned to become a university lecturer. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the philosophy of Epicureanism. But by 1841 the Prussian government clamped down on the Hegelian left, which caused all job prospects for Marx to evaporate. Back in the western part of Germany, in Saarbrücken, Marx met a communistic Zionist publicist named Moses Hess who was able to “convert” him to a communist philosophy. Hess was also responsible for converting Friedrich Engels, Marx’ future collaborator. Marx soon became the editor of a liberal newspaper, the Rheinische Zeitung, which he quickly radicalized. In April 1843, the paper was suppressed by the government and Marx emigrated to Paris. He was expelled from France in 1845, eventually settling in England in 1849. The year before, in 1848, he wrote one of his two major works—in collaboration with Engels—The Manifesto of the Communist Party. He was to live the rest of his life in relatively obscure circumstances in London.

In 1864 the “First International”—or more precisely the International Workingman’s Association—was organized in London. This was a federation of unions and radical organizations. Marx was able to exert his influence on this group. In place of nationally organized and loosely affiliated, vaguely liberal unions, Marx imposed his vision of an international, disciplined and federated, radical organization bent on the utter destruction of capitalist society. Because of his authoritarian principles Marx was opposed in the International by the almost equally prestigious Mikail Bakunin.

1867 saw the publication of the first volume of Marx’ magnum opus: Capital (Das Kapital). By this time his thought had reached its full maturity and he could only defend the doctrines he had already developed. His support for the short-lived violently insurgent government in France in 1871, known as “the Commune,” earned for Marx the popular title of “the Red Terrorist Doctor.”

Due largely to the chaotic influence of Bakunin in the organization, the International died in obscurity in Philadelphia in 1876. In his latter years Marx developed closer ties with Russian communists. But before these ties could be exploited, he died in London on 14 March 1883. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery. It would be over three decades before his theories would begin to be put into practical use after the Russian revolution of 1917.

Marx’ attitude toward traditional religion was that it is “the opiate of the masses.” However, it is equally clear that he intended his philosophy to be a total replacement for religion. His antipathy toward religion began shortly after he began his university studies. He and his associates at the Doktorklub—the Young Hegelians of Berlin—set out on an atheistic program to destroy the superstructure of conservative authority, which they saw in religion. Although he later concentrated on certain economic theories coupled with historical materialism, the young Marx had a vision of the “total redemption of humanity,”[62] as he wrote in the introduction to his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1844). The whole of Marx’ philosophy has been seen as a sort of “prophetic politics”[63] in which a total transformation of the world is envisioned—and then promoted.

The early ideas of Marx—in which the roots of his motivations may be found—have been analyzed as being Faustian/Promethean by at least one scholar.[64] Even the casual observer will have noticed the quasi-reiigious features of Marxism both as a theory and as it has been practiced in various countries in the 20th century. This perhaps has its origins in the nature of Marx’ own initial impetus during his Berlin period. All this is best revealed in his own early, pre-communist, writings, e.g. the epic drama Oulanem (1837) and his poetry. In one of these poems, “The Fiddler” [“Der Spielmann”] (1841), he writes:

Was, was! Ich stech’, stech’ ohne fehle
Blutschwarz den Sabel in Deine Seele,
Gott kennt sie nicht, Gott acht’ nicht der Kunst
Die stieg in den Kopf aus Höllendunst,
Bis das Him vernarrt, bis das Herz verwandelt:
Die hab’ ich lebendig vom Schwarzen erhandelt
Der schlägt mir den Takt, der kreidet die Zeichen;
muss voller, toller den Todtenmarsch streichen...
(ll. 17–24)

Behold, my blood-blackened saber shall stab
Without fail into your heart.
God neither knows nor does he honor art.
It rises into the brain as vapors from Hell.
Until I brain is deluded and my heart transformed:
I bought it while still alive from the Dark-One.
He beats the time for me, he gives the signs;
must more boldly, madly rush in the March of Death...

It is curious that even toward the end of his life overtly Satanic images were used to describe him, even by his close associates. His son-in-law Paul Lafargue said of him: “...he himself was known as the Moor or Old Nick on account of his dark complexion and sinister appearance.”[65]

In the final analysis Marxism is a system of mystical materialism. He posits that history has an organic structure and that its evolution is driven not by the mind of God, as Hegel would have had it, but by exclusively material considerations, e.g. purely economic determination or human behavior and the change caused by struggles between economically determined classes in society. Throughout all of history classes of people—as determined essentially by economic status—who were without power would, by the inevitable force of the historical dialectic, wrest power away from those who have it at present. Thus the proletariat would, by the sheer force of history, overcome the over-ripe capitalist establishment.

Marx claimed that his theories were purely “scientific” or rationally based, that he merely had the clearest view of historical change and its causes. But as it turns out his work had an effect less like a prophesy and more like a sorcerous incantation. Essentially Marx’ view of history appears uncannily like that of Judeo-Christian tradition—only its causal agent has been revaluated from “God’s Plan” to “historical dialectic.” In the former there is an initial Edenic period, broken by man’s transgression against God’s law. This is followed by a long period of tribulation ended first by the incarnation of the Messiah who brings the program for salvation—the Evangelium—which is to be enacted by his earthly followers (the Church). Once this program has been spread world-wide, evil will be vanquished and a new paradise will be established on earth. The Christian version of this is, of course, highly spiritualized, while the Judaic remains largely materialistic. The Marxist view similarly posits an early period of primitive communism, broken by the institution of private property (= Original Sin) and slave labor. This is followed by successive economic stages of feudalism and capitalism. The beginning of the end of the capitalistic phase is heralded by Marxist theory as a program for “redemption”—historical dialectic—which is to be enacted by socialist revolutionaries (the International). Once revolution is spread world-wide, capitalism will be vanquished and the classless, perfected Communist society will be established on earth. Such parallels between Marxist and Christian and/or Judaic views of history have also been posited by several scholars in the past.[66]

Although Marxist theory may be increasingly discredited as political systems based upon it fail and prove to be programs for ever more inefficient and intolerant systems than those the theory was designed to overthrow, elements of Marxist thinking have definitely permeated into popular political culture in the form of such things as notions of “political correctness.” The concept of “political correctness” (even the connotations of the phrase) stems from Marxist orthodoxy and is based on the premise that there is an ongoing struggle by a variety of suppressed groups who are at present viewed as being relatively powerless, e.g. women, African Americans, Hispanics, the physically challenged. It is their collective aim (each group individually) to wrest socioeconomic power from those who have it at present. This is Marx’ “class struggle.” Furthermore, those groups are assured by Marxist theory of fighting the good fight, the moral fight, because the historical dialectic (or the Marxist “God”) is on their side. Their morality and their future victory is assured by the very fact that they are currently powerless. This is why, for example, blacks cannot be considered “racists,” or women “sexists,” at least according to this theory based in the Marxist historical dialectic.

28. The Left-Overs

Deleted reason: not anarchist

Subtitle: How Fascists Court the Post-Left

Author: Alexander Reid Ross

Authors: Alexander Reid Ross

Topics: anti-fascism; fascism; fascist creep; post-left; criticism and critique; anarcho-primitivism; Bob Black; ELF; green anarchism; Hakim Bey; John Zerzan; Lawrence Jarach; Max Stirner; nihilism

Date: 29 March, 2017

Date Published on T@L: 2022-09-28T21:04:33

Source: Retrieved on 28 September, 2022 from

Notes: Alexander Reid Ross is a former co-editor of the Earth First! Journal and the author of Against the Fascist Creep. He teaches in the Geography Department at Portland State University and can be reached at <>.

Author’s Note: A few months ago, the radical publication, Fifth Estate, solicited an article from me discussing the rise of fascism in recent years. Following their decision to withdraw the piece, I accepted the invitation of Anti-Fascist News to publish an expanded version here, with some changes, at the urging of friends and fellow writers.

Chapter 1: The Early Composition of Fascist Individualism

A friendly editor recently told me via email, “if anti-capitalism and pro individual liberty [sic] are clearly stated in the books or articles, they won’t be used by those on the right.” If this were true, fascism simply would vanish from the earth. Fascism comes from a mixture of left and right-wing positions, and some on the left pursue aspects of collectivism, syndicalism, ecology, and authoritarianism that intersect with fascist enterprises. Partially in response to the tendencies of left authoritarianism, a distinct antifascist movement emerged in the 1970s to create what has became known as “post-left” thought. Yet in imagining that anti-capitalism and “individual liberty” maintain ideological purity, radicals such as my own dear editor tend to ignore critical convergences with and vulnerabilities to fascist ideology.

The post-left developed largely out of a tendency to favor individual freedom autonomous from political ideology of left and right while retaining some elements of leftism. Although it is a rich milieu with many contrasting positions, post-leftists often trace their roots to individualist Max Stirner, whose belief in the supremacy of the European individual over and against nation, class, and creed was heavily influenced by philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. After Stirner’s death in 1856, the popularity of collectivism and neo-Kantianism obscured his individualist philosophy until Friedrich Nietzsche raised its profile again during the later part of the century. Influenced by Stirner, Nietzsche argued for the overcoming of socialism and the “modern world” by the iconoclastic, aristocratic philosopher known as the “Superman” or “übermensch.”

During the late-19th Century, Stirnerists conflated the “Superman” with the assumed responsibility of women to bear a superior European race—a “New Man” to produce, and be produced by, a “New Age.” Similarly, right-wing aristocrats who loathed the notions of liberty and equality turned to Nietzsche and Stirner to support their sense of elitism and hatred of left-wing populism and mass-based civilization. Some anarchists and individualists influenced by Stirner and Nietzsche looked to right-wing figures like Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, who developed the idea of a “conservative revolution” that would upend the spiritual crises of the modern world and the age of the masses. In the words of anarchist, Victor Serge, “Dostoevsky: the best and the worst, inseparable. He really looks for the truth and fears to find it; he often finds it all the same and then he is terrified… a poor great man…”

History’s “great man” or “New Man” was neither left nor right; he strove to destroy the modern world and replace it with his own ever-improving image—but what form would that image take? In Italy, reactionaries associated with the Futurist movement and various romantic nationalist strains expressed affinity with the individualist current identified with Nietzsche and Stirner. Anticipating tremendous catastrophes that would bring the modern world to its knees and install the New Age of the New Man, the Futurists sought to fuse the “destructive gesture of the anarchists” with the bombast of empire.

A hugely popular figure among these tendencies of individualism and “conservative revolution,” the Italian aesthete Gabrielle D’Annunzio summoned 2,600 soldiers in a daring 1919 attack on the port city of Fiume to reclaim it for Italy after World War I. During their exploit, the occupying force hoisted the black flag emblazoned by skull and crossbones and sang songs of national unity. Italy disavowed the imperial occupation, leaving the City-State in the hands of its romantic nationalist leadership. A constitution, drawn up by national syndicalist, Alceste De Ambris, provided the basis for national solidarity around a corporative economy mediated through collaborating syndicates. D’Annunzio was prophetic and eschatological, presenting poetry during convocations from the balcony. He was masculine. He was Imperial and majestic, yet radical and rooted in fraternal affection. He called forth sacrifice and love of the nation.

When he returned to Italy after the military uprooted his enclave in Fiume, ultranationalists, Futurists, artists, and intellectuals greeted D’Annunzio as a leader of the growing Fascist movement. The aesthetic ceremonies and radical violence contributed to a sacralization of politics invoked by the spirit of Fascism. Though Mussolini likely saw himself as a competitor to D’Annunzio for the role of supreme leader, he could not deny the style and mood, the high aesthetic appeal that reached so many through the Fiume misadventure. Fascism, Mussolini insisted, was an anti-party, a movement. The Fascist Blackshirts, or squadristi, adopted D’Annunzio’s flare, the black uniforms, the skull and crossbones, the dagger at the hip, the “devil may care” attitude expressed by the anthem, “Me ne frego” or “I don’t give a damn.” Some of those who participated in the Fiume exploit abandoned D’Annunzio as he joined the Fascist movement, drifting to the Arditi del Popolo to fight the Fascist menace. Others would join the ranks of the Blackshirts.

Originally a man of the left, Mussolini had no difficulty joining the symbolism of revolution with ultranationalist rebirth. “Down with the state in all its species and incarnations,” he declared in a 1920 speech. “The state of yesterday, of today, of tomorrow. The bourgeois state and the socialist. For those of us, the doomed (morituri) of individualism, through the darkness of the present and the gloom of tomorrow, all that remains is the by-now-absurd, but ever consoling, religion of anarchy!” In another statement, he asked, “why should Stirner not have a comeback?”

Mussolini’s concept of anarchism was critical, because he saw anarchism as prefiguring fascism. “If anarchist authors have discovered the importance of the mythical from an opposition to authority and unity,” declared Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt, drawing on Mussolini’s concept of myth, “then they have also cooperated in establishing the foundation of another authority, however unwillingly, an authority based on the new feeling for order, discipline, and hierarchy.” The dialectics of fascism here are two-fold: only the anarchist destruction of the modern world in every milieu would open the potential for Fascism, but the mythic stateless society of anarchism, for Mussolini, could only emerge, paradoxically, from a self-disciplining state of total order.

Antifascist anarchist individualists and nihilists like Renzo Novatore represented for Mussolini a kind of “passive nihilism,” which Nietzsche understood as the decadence and weakness of modernity. The veterans that would fight for Mussolini rejected the suppression of individualism under the Bolsheviks and favored “an anti-party of fighters,” according to historian Emilio Gentile. Fascism would exploit the rampant misogyny of men like Novatore while turning the “passive nihilism” of their vision of total collapse toward “active nihilism” through a rebirth of the New Age at the hands of the New Man.

The “drift” toward fascism that took place throughout Europe during the 1920s and 1930s was not restricted to the collectivist left of former Communists, Syndicalists, and Socialists; it also included the more ambiguous politics of the European avant-garde and intellectual elites. In France, literary figures like Georges Bataille and Antonin Artaud began experimenting with fascist aesthetics of cruelty, irrationalism, and elitism. In 1934, Bataille declared his hope to usher in “room for great fascist societies,” which he believed inhabited the world of “higher forms” and “makes an appeal to sentiments traditionally defined as exalted and noble.” Bataille’s admiration for Stirner did not prevent him from developing what he described decades later as a “paradoxical fascist tendency.” Other libertarian celebrities like Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Maurice Blanchot also embraced fascist themes—particularly virulent anti-Semitism.

Like Blanchot, the Nazi-supporting Expressionist poet Gottfried Benn called on an anti-humanist language of suffering and nihilism that looked inward, finding only animal impulses and irrational drives. Existentialist philosopher and Nazi Party member, Martin Heidegger, played on Nietzschean themes of nihilism and aesthetics in his phenomenology, placing angst at the core of modern life and seeking existential release through a destructive process that he saw as implicit in the production of an authentic work of art. Literary figure Ernst Jünger, who cheered on Hitler’s rise, summoned the force of “active nihilism,” seeking the collapse of the civilization through a “magic zero” that would bring about a New Age of ultra-individualist actors that he later called “Anarchs.” The influence of Stirner was as present in Jünger as it was in Mussolini’s early fascist years, and carried over to other members of the fascist movement like Carl Schmitt and Julius Evola.

Evola was perhaps the most important of those seeking the collapse of civilization and the New Age’s spiritual awakening of the “universal individual,” sacrificial dedication, and male supremacy. A dedicated fascist and individualist, Evola devoted himself to the purity of sacred violence, racism, anti-Semitism, and the occult. Asserting a doctrine of the “political soldier,” Evola regarded violence as necessary in establishing a kind of natural hierarchy that promoted the supreme individual over the multitudes. Occult practice distilled into an overall aristocracy of the spirit, Evola believed, which could only find expression through sacrifice and a Samurai-like code of honor. Evola shared these ideals of conquest, elitism, sacrificial pleasure with the SS, who invited the Italian esotericist to Vienna to indulge his thirst for knowledge. Following World War II, Evola’s spiritual fascism found parallels in the writings of Savitri Devi, a French esotericist of Greek descent who developed an anti-humanist practice of Nazi nature worship not unlike today’s Deep Ecology. In her rejection of human rights, Devi insisted that the world manifests a totality of interlocking life forces, none of which enjoys a particular moral prerogative over the other.

Chapter 2: The Creation of the Post-Left

It has been shown by now that fascism, in its inter-war period, attracted numerous anti-capitalists and individualists, largely through elitism, the aestheticization of politics, and the nihilist’s desire for the destruction of the modern world. After the fall of the Reich, fascists attempted to rekindle the embers of their movement by intriguing within both the state and social movements. It became popular among fascists to reject Hitler to some degree and call for a return to the original “national syndicalist” ideas mixed with the elitism of the “New Man” and the destruction of civilization. Fascists demanded “national liberation” for European ethnicities against NATO and multicultural liberalism, while the occultism of Evola and Devi began to fuse with Satanism to form new fascist hybrids. With ecology and anti-authoritarianism, such sacralization of political opposition through the occult would prove among the most intriguing conduits for fascist insinuation into subcultures after the war.

In the ’60s, left-communist groups like Socialisme ou Barbarie, Pouvoir ouvrier, and the Situationists gathered at places like bookstore-cum-publishing house, La Vielle Taupe (The Old Mole), critiquing everyday life in industrial civilization through art and transformative practices. According to Gilles Dauvé, one of the participants in this movement, “the small milieu round the bookshop La Vieille Taupe” developed the idea of “communisation,” or the revolutionary transformation of all social relations. This new movement of “ultra-leftists” helped inspire the aesthetics of a young, intellectual rebellion that culminated in a large uprising of students and workers in Paris during May 1968.

The strong anti-authoritarian current of the ultra-left and the broader uprising of May ’68 contributed to similar movements elsewhere in Europe, like the Italian Autonomia movement, which spread from a wildcat strike against the car manufacturer, Fiat, to generalized upheaval involving rent strikes, building occupations, and mass street demonstrations. While most of Autonomia remained left-wing, its participants were intensely critical of the established left, and autonomists often objected to the ham-fisted strategy of urban guerrillas. In 1977, individualist anarchist, Alfredo Bonanno, penned the text, “Armed Joy,” exhorting Italian leftists to drop patriarchal pretensions to guerrilla warfare and join popular insurrectionary struggle. The conversion of Marxist theorist, Jacques Camatte, to the pessimistic rejection of leftism and embrace of simpler life tied to nature furthered contradictions within the Italian left.

With anti-authoritarianism, ecologically-oriented critiques of civilization emerged out of the 1960s and 1970s as significant strains of a new identity that rejected both left and right. Adapting to these currents of popular social movements and exploiting blurred ideological lines between left and right, fascist ideologues developed the framework of “ethno-pluralism.” Couching their rhetoric in “the right to difference” (ethnic separatism), fascists masked themselves with labels like the “European New Right,” “national revolutionaries,” and “revolutionary traditionalists.” The “European New Right” took the rejection of the modern world advocated by the ultra-left as a proclamation of the indigeneity of Europeans and their pagan roots in the land. Fascists further produced spiritual ideas derived from a sense of rootedness in one’s native land, evoking the old “blood and soil” ecology of the German völkische movement and Nazi Party.

In Italy, this movement produced the “Hobbit Camp,” an eco-festival organized by European New Right figure Marco Tarchi and marketed to disillusioned youth via Situationist-style posters and flyers. When Italian “national revolutionary,” Roberto Fiore, fled charges of participating in a massive bombing of a train station in Bologna, he found shelter in the London apartment of Tarchi’s European New Right colleague, Michael Walker. This new location would prove transformative, as Fiore, Walker, and a group of fascist militants created a political faction called the Official National Front in 1980. This group would help promote and would benefit from a more avant-garde fascist aesthetic, bringing forward neo-folk, noise, and other experimental music genres.

While fascists entered the green movement and exploited openings in left anti-authoritarian thought, Situationism began to transform. In the early 1970s, post-Situationism emerged through US collectives that combined Stirnerist egoism with collectivist thought. In 1974, the For Ourselves group published The Right to Be Greedy, inveighing against altruism while linking egoist greed to the synthesis of social identity and welfare—in short, to surplus. The text was reprinted in 1983 by libertarian group, Loompanics Unlimited, with a preface from a little-known writer named Bob Black.

While post-Situationism turned toward individualism, a number of European ultra-leftists moved toward the right. In Paris, La Vieille Taupe went from controversial views rejecting the necessity of specialized antifascism to presenting the Holocaust as a lie necessary to maintain the capitalist order. In 1980, La Vielle Taupe published the notorious Mémoire en Défense centre ceux qui m’accusent de falsifier l’histoire by Holocaust denier, Robert Faurisson. Though La Vielle Taupe and founder, Pierre Guillaume, received international condemnation, they gained a controversial defense from left-wing professor, Noam Chomsky. Even if they have for the most part denounced Guillaume and his entourage, the ultra-leftist rejection of specialized antifascism has remained somewhat popular—particularly as expounded by Dauvé, who insisted in the early 1980s that “fascism as a specific movement has disappeared.”

The idea that fascism had become a historical artifact only helped the creep of fascism to persist undetected, while Faurisson and Guillaume became celebrities on the far-right. As the twist toward Holocaust denial would suggest, ultra-left theory was not immune from translation into ethnic terms—a reality that formed the basis of the work of Official National Front officer, Troy Southgate. Though influenced by the Situationists, along with a scramble of other left and right-wing figures, Southgate focused particularly on the ecological strain of radical politics associated with the punk-oriented journal, Green Anarchist, which called for a return to “primitive” livelihoods and the destruction of modern civilization. In 1991, the editors of Green Anarchist pushed out their co-editor, Richard Hunt, for his patriotic militarism, and Hunt’s new publication, Green Alternative, soon became associated with Southgate. Two years later, Southgate would join allied fascists like Jean-François Thiriart and Christian Bouchet to create the Liaison Committee for Revolutionary Nationalism.

In the US, the “anarcho-primitivist” or “Green Anarchist” tendency had been taken up by former ultra-leftist, John Zerzan. Identifying civilization as an enemy of the earth, Zerzan called for a return to sustainable livelihoods that rejected modernity. Zerzan rejected racism but relied in no small part on the thought of Martin Heidegger, seeking a return authentic relations between humans and the world unmediated by symbolic thought. This desired return, some have pointed out, would require a collapse of civilization so profound that millions, if not billions, would likely perish. Zerzan, himself, seems somewhat ambiguous with regards to the potential death toll, regardless of his support for the unibomber, Ted Kaczynsky.

Joining with Zerzan to confront authoritarianism and return to a more tribal, hunter-gatherer social organization, an occultist named Hakim Bey developed the idea of the “Temporary Autonomous Zone” (TAZ). For Bey, a TAZ would actualize a liberated and erotic space of orgiastic, revolutionary poesis. Yet within his 1991 text, Temporary Autonomous Zone, Bey included extensive praise for D’Annunzio’s proto-fascist occupation of Fiume, revealing the disturbing historical trends of attempts to transcend right and left.

Along with Zerzan and Bey, Bob Black would prove instrumental to the foundation of what is today called the “post-left.” In his 1997 text, Anarchy After Leftism, Black responded to left-wing anarchist Murray Bookchin, who accused individualists of “lifestyle anarchism.” Drawing from Zerzan’s critique of civilization as well as from Stirner and Nietzsche, Black presented his rejection of work as a nostrum for authoritarian left tendencies that he identified with Bookchin (apparently Jew-baiting Bookchin in the process).[67]

Thus, the post-left began to assemble through the writings of ultra-leftists, green anarchists, spiritualists, and egoists published in zines, books, and journals like Anarchy: Journal of Desire Armed and Fifth Estate. Although these thinkers and publications differ in many ways, key tenets of the post-left included an eschatological anticipation of the collapse of civilization accompanied by a synthesis of individualism and collectivism that rejected left, right, and center in favor of a deep connection with the earth and more organic, tribal communities as opposed to humanism, the Enlightenment tradition, and democracy. That post-left texts included copious references to Stirner, Nietzsche, Jünger, Heidegger, Artaud, and Bataille suggests that they form a syncretic intellectual tendency that unites left and right, individualism and “conservative revolution.” As we will see, this situation has provided ample space for the fascist creep.

Chapter 3: The Fascist Creep

During the 1990s, the “national revolutionary” network of Southgate, Thiriart, and Bouchet, later renamed the European Liberation Front, linked up with the American Front, a San Francisco skinhead group exploring connections between counterculture and the avant-garde. Like prior efforts to develop a Satanic Nazism, American Front leader Bob Heick supported a mix of Satanism, occultism, and paganism, making friends with fascist musician Boyd Rice. A noise musician and avant-gardist, Rice developed a “fascist think tank” called the Abraxas Foundation, which echoed the fusion of the cult ideas of Charles Manson, fascism, and Satanism brought together by 1970s fascist militant James Mason. Rice’s protégé and fellow Abraxas member, Michael Moynihan, joined the radical publishing company, Feral House, which publishes texts along the lines of Abraxas, covering a range of themes from Charles Manson Scandinavian black metal, and militant Islam to books by Evola, James Mason, Bob Black, and John Zerzan.

In similar efforts, Southgate’s French ally, Christian Bouchet, generated distribution networks and magazines dedicated to supporting a miniature industry growing around neo-folk and the new, ”anarchic” Scandinavian black metal scene. Further, national anarchists attempted to set up and/or infiltrate e-groups devoted to green anarchism. As Southgate and Bouchet’s network spread to Russia, notorious Russian fascist, Alexander Dugin, emerged as another leading ideologue who admired Zerzan’s work.

Post-leftists were somewhat knowledgable about these developments. In a 1999 post-script to one of Bob Black’s works, co-editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, Lawrence Jarach, cautioned against the rise of “national anarchism.” In 2005, Zerzan’s journal, Green Anarchy, published a longer critique of Southgate’s “national anarchism.” These warnings were significant, considering that they came in the context of active direct action movements and groups like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a green anarchist group dedicated to large-scale acts of sabotage and property destruction with the intention of bringing about the ultimate collapse of industrial civilization.

As their ELF group executed arsons during the late-1990s and early-2000s, a former ELF member told me that two comrades, Nathan “Exile” Block and Joyanna “Sadie” Zacher, shared an unusual love of Scandinavian black metal, made disturbing references to Charles Manson, and promoted an elitist, anti-left mentality. While their obscure references evoked Abraxas, Feral House, and Bouchet’s distribution networks, their politics could not be recognized within the milieu of fascism at the time. However, their general ideas became clearer, the former ELF member told me, when antifascist researchers later discovered that a Tumblr account run by Block contained numerous occult fascist references, including national anarchist symbology, swastikas, and quotes from Evola and Jünger. These were only two members of a larger group, but their presence serves as food for thought regarding important radical cross-over points and how to approach them.

To wit, the decisions of John Zerzan and Bob Black to publish books with Feral House, seem peculiar—especially in light of the fact that two of the four books Zerzan has published there came out in 2005, the same year as Green Anarchy’s noteworthy warning against national anarchism. It would appear that, although in some cases prescient about the subcultural cross-overs between fascism and the post-left, post-leftists have, on a number of occasions, engaged in collaborative relationships.

As Green Anarchy cautioned against entryism and Zerzan simultaneously published with Feral House, controversy descended on an online forum known as the Anti-Politics Board. An outgrowth of the insurrectionist publication Killing King Abacus, the Anti-Politics Board was used by over 1,000 registered members and had dozens of regular contributors. The online platform presented a flourishing site of debate for post-leftists, yet discussions over insurrectionism, communisation, green anarchy, and egoism often produced a strangely competitive iconoclastism. Attempts to produce the edgiest take often led to the popularization of topics like “‘anti-sexism’ as collectivist moralism” and “critique of autonomous anti-fascism.” Attacks on morality and moralism tended to encourage radicals to abandon the “identity politics” and “white guilt” often associated with left-wing anti-racism.

Amid these discussions, a young radical named Andrew Yeoman began to post national anarchist positions. When asked repeatedly to remove Yeoman from the forum, a site administrator refused, insisting that removing the white nationalist would have meant behaving like leftists. They needed to try something else. Whatever they tried, however, it didn’t work, and Yeoman later became notorious for forming a group called the Bay Area National Anarchists, showing up to anarchist events like book fairs, and promoting anarchist collaboration with the Minutemen and American Front.

An important aspect of the Anti-Politics Board was the articulation of nihilist and insurrectionary theories, both of which gained popularity after the 2008 financial crisis. In an article titled, “The New Nihilism,” Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey) pointed out that the rising wave of nihilism that emerged during the late 2000s and into the second decade could not immediately be distinguished from the far right, due to myriad cross-over points. Indeed, Stormfront is riddled with users like “TAZriot” and “whitepunx” who promote the basic, individualist tenets of post-leftism from the original, racist position of Stirnerism. Rejecting “political correctness” and “white guilt,” these post-left racists desire separate, radical spaces and autonomous zones for whites.

Through dogged research, Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon, discovered whitepunx’s identity: “Trigger” Tom Christensen, a known member of the local punk scene. “I was never an anti [antifascist] but I’ve hung out with a few of them,” Christensen wrote on Stormfront. “I used to be a big punk rocker in the music scene and there were some antis that ran around in the same scene. I was friends with a few. They weren’t trying to recruit me, or anybody really. They did not, however, know I was a WN [white nationalist]. I kept my beliefs to myself and would shut down any opinions the[y] expressed that seemed to have holes in them. It’s been fairly useful to know some of these people. I now know who all the major players are in the anti and SHARP [Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice] scene.”

For a time, Christensen says he hung out with post-leftists and debated them like Yeoman had done. Less than a year later, however, Christensen followed up in a chilling post titled, “Do You Think It Would Be Acceptable To Be A ‘Rat’ If It Was Against Our Enemies.” He wrote, “I had an interesting thought the other day and wanted peoples opinions. If you were asked by the Police to provide or find evidence that would incriminate people who are enemy’s [sic] of the movement, i.e. Leftists, reds, anarchists. Would you do it? Would you ‘rat’ or ‘narc’ on the Left side?” Twenty one responses came beckoning from the recesses of the white nationalist world. While some encouraged Christensen to snitch, others insisted that he keep gang loyalty. It is uncertain as to whether or not he went to the police, but the May 2013 discovery of his Stormfront activity took place shortly before a grand jury subpoenaed four anarchists who were subsequently arrested and held for contempt of court.

In another unsettling example of crossover between post-leftists and fascists, radicals associated with a nihilist group named Ultra harshly rebuked Rose City Antifa of Portland, Oregon, for releasing an exposé about Jack Donovan. An open member of the violent white nationalist group, Wolves of Vinland, Donovan also runs a gym called the Kabuki Strength Lab, which produces “manosphere” videos. As of November 2016, when the exposé was published, one member of Ultra was a member of the Kabuki Strength Lab. Although Donovan runs a tattoo shop out of the gym and gave Libertarian Party fascist Augustus Sol Invictus a tattoo of the fasces there, a fellow gym member wrote, “Obviously Jack has very controversial beliefs and practices that most disagree with; but I don’t believe it affects his behavior in the gym.” Donovan, who has publicly parroted “race realist” statistics at white nationalist gatherings like the National Policy Institute and the Pressure Project podcast, also embraces bioregionalism and the anticipation of a collapse of civilization that will lead to a reversion of identity-bound tribal structures at war with one another and reliant on natural hierarchies—an ideology that resonates with Ultra and some members of the broader post-left milieu.

It stands to reason that defending fascists and collaborating with them are not the same, and they are both separate from having incidental ideological cross-over points. However the cross-over points, when unchecked, frequently indicate a tendency to ignore, defend, or collaborate. Defense and collaboration can, and do, also converge. For instance, also in Portland, Oregon, the founder of a UK ultra-leftist splinter group called Wildcat began to participate in a reading group involving prominent post-leftists before sliding toward anti-Semitism. Soon he was participating in the former-leftist-turned-fascist Pacifica Forum in Eugene, Oregon, and defending anti-Semitic co-op leader, Tim Calvert. He was last seen by antifas creeping into an event for Holocaust denier, David Irving.

Perhaps the most troubling instance of collaboration, or rather synthesis, of post-left nihilism and the far right is taking place currently in the alt-right. Donovan is considered a member of the alt-right, while Christensen’s latest visible Facebook post hails from the misogynistic Proud Boys group. These groups and individuals connected to the alt-right are described as having been “red-pilled,” a term taken from the movie, The Matrix, in which the protagonist is awakened to a dystopian reality after choosing to take a red pill. For the alt-right, being “red-pilled” means waking up to the “reality” offered by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, misogyny, and white nationalism—usually through online forums where the competitive iconoclasm of “edge-lords” mutates into ironic anti-Semitism and hatred. Among the most extreme forms of this phenomenon occurring in recent years is the so-called “black pill”—red-pillers who have turning toward the celebration of indiscriminate violence via the same trends of individualism and nihilism outlined above.

“Black-pillers” claim to have shed their attachments to all theories entirely. This tendency evokes the attitude of militant anti-civilization group, Individuals Tending to the Wild, which is popular among some post-leftist groups and advocates indiscriminate violence against any targets manifesting the modern world. Another influence for “black-pillers” is Adam Lanza, the infamous mass shooter who phoned John Zerzan a year before murdering his mother, 20 children, and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Zerzan has condemned Individuals Tending Toward the Wild, and months after Lanza’s horrifying actions, he penned a piece imploring post-left nihilists to find hope: “Egoism and nihilism are evidently in vogue among anarchists and I’m hoping that those who so identify are not without hope. Illusions no, hope yes.” Unfortunately, Zerzan developed his short communiqué into a book published by Feral House on November 10, 2015—the day after Feral House published The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement co-authored by Eddie Stampton, a Nazi skinhead.


In light of these cross-overs, many individualist anarchists, post-leftists, and nihilists tend not to deny that they share nodal networks with fascists. In many cases, they seek to struggle against them and reclaim their movement. Yet, there tends to be another permissive sense that anarchists bear no responsibility for distinguishing themselves from fascists. If there are numerous points in which radical milieus become a blur of fascists, anarchists, and romantics, some claim that throwing shade on such associations only propagates fallacious thinking, or “guilt by association.”

However, recalling the information in this essay, we might note that complex cross-overs seem to include, in particular, aspects of egoism and radical green theory. Derived from Stirnerism and Nietzschean philosophy, egoism can reify the social alienation felt by an individual, leading to an elitist sense of self-empowerment and delusions of grandeur. When mixed with insurrectionism and radical green thought, egoism can translate into “hunter versus prey” or “wolves versus sheep” elitism, in which compassion for others is rejected as moralistic. This kind of alienated elitism can also develop estranged aesthetic and affective positions tied to cruelty, vengeance, and hatred.

Emerging out of a rejection of humanism and urban modernism, the particular form of radical green theory often embraced by the post-left can relativize human losses by looking at the larger waves of mass extinctions. By doing this, radical greens anticipate a collapse that would “cull the herd” or cause a mass human die off of millions, if not billions, of people throughout the world. This aspect of radical green theory comes very close to, and sometimes intertwines with, ideas about over-population compiled and produced by white nationalists and anti-immigration activists tied to the infamous Tanton Network. Some radical green egoists (or nihilists) insist that their role should be to provoke such a collapse, through anti-moralist strikes against civilization.

As examples like Hakim Bey’s TAZ and the lionization of the Fiume misadventure, Zerzan and Black’s publishing with Feral House, and Ultra’s defense of Donovan indicate, the post-left’s relation to white nationalism is sometimes ambiguous and occasionally even collaborative. Other examples, like those of Yeoman and Christensen, indicate that the tolerance for fascist ideas on the post-left can result in unwittingly accepting them, providing a platform for white nationalism, and increasing vulnerability to entryism. Specific ideas that are sometimes tolerated under the rubric of the “critique of the left” include the approval of “natural hierarchies,” ultranationalism understood as ethno-biological and spiritual ties to homeland and ancestry, rejection of feminism and antifascism, and the fetishization of violence and cruelty.

It is more important today than ever before to recognize how radical movements develop intersections with fascists if we are to discover how to expose creeping fascism and develop stronger, more direct networks. Anarchists must abandon the equivocations that invite the fascist creep and reclaim anarchy as the integral struggle for freedom and equality. Sectarian polemics are the result of extensive learning processes, but are less important than engaging in solidarity to struggle against fascism in all its forms and various disguises.


29. Where did all the tankies come from?

Deleted reason: transphobia. can discuss. removing for now. see comment.

Subtitle: How anarchists fucked up and by inaction created the tankie resurgence

Author: William Gillis

Topics: Authoritarian Left

Date: 16th August 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2021-01-14T10:54:55

Source: Retrieved on 14th January 2020 from

My sincere answer for why tankies reemerged five years ago is that movements are social hierarchies and newbie teens don’t want to compete for status in existing illegible/inaccessible spaces like anarchism, so they resurrected a dead/empty scene that had trappings of status.

Leftism exploded in social cachet for a variety of reasons, and newly minted leftists needed to slap an identity, a brand, a flag of status and association on themselves.

“Stalin did nothing wrong, USSR looked cool” is a quickie that requires no work or long acculturation.

For all of recorded history tankies were like three old creepy white dudes no one cared about at the back of an IWW meeting. Sometimes they’d trick a kid or two for a couple years.

The reemergence of tankies involved people completely disconnected and unrelated to prior tankies.

When I first started hearing whispers of anyone under 50 actually defending Lenin it was newly minted trans girls in abusive cult collective houses. They weren’t like getting this shit from contact w/ actual leninists, they were inventing a new social milieu from whole cloth.

Sure, there were some points of transmission. A creepy professor schooled in standard creepy tankie entryism gathered some students, got them to take over fb pages, etc. But mostly tankies were just googling “what is communism” and grabbing random shit.

Anyway, this is why today’s online tankiedom is such an uniformed and contradictory grab-bag of bullshit. There’s been some congealing as folks competed to show off what texts (in this previously dead space) they’d read, but mostly it’s just social positioning.

This kind of thing happens EVERY time a movement gets a flood of new recruits. People flood in and want to grab high status immediately, are resentful of those already there, and clash over not wanting to learn or accept preexisting consensus positions they don’t yet hold.

My go-to example of this in Occupy were kids who “not to brag but had been an anarchist now for OVER A MONTH” getting furious and yelling at longstanding anarchists that we were “fake anarchists who don’t know anything!” because we weren’t pacifists.

See also leftypol & the dirtbaggers. Folks get converted on one issue and then recoil about being expected to also learn / change their opinion on a variety of other topics. Respecting pronouns?! Never! You olds are a joke! We’re making a new movement with hookers & blackjack!

Anyway, tankies and their eternal tactics of parasitic duplicitous entryism are particularly effective online with kids who are freshfaced and have no deep AFK contact with radical/activist spaces. They basically ate 99% of meme pages on facebook and every subreddit.

Now did some of these people get hooked up with checks from the PRC or something? Maybe. We’ve seen eg DPRK funding neonazi reading groups. But I think this is minor and is not responsible for the 2015/2016 tankie explosion. Bernie did that.

I mean quite literally it was Bernie. In 2016 an activist group I was in was interviewing people looking to get involved and we found (to my comrades’ shock) a number of fervent bloodthirsty tankies. Looking at their social media they were THREE MONTHS into being tankies.

I mean literally we’re talking about people who had been Bernie Bernie Bernie liberals and then the moment prospects for further standing in that scene fell out with the collapse of his campaign they turned on a dime and got into Stalin did nothing wrong, Castro’s a hero, etc.

These kids had basically never done activism before and knew NOTHING but were fronting as longtime super serious radicals. They were astonished to learn we were all anarchists. They didn’t know anarchists were real or 90% of the actual activist scene.

These kids who had again, three months prior been all about Bernie and had no fucking politics beyond a few Bernie videos they watched, were making posts to their social media praising Stalin exterminating anarchists.

They were DESPERATE for belonging, status, identity, etc. Particularly that which could be gotten from behind a computer screen by joining like a discord or fb group or watching a few youtube videos.

Anarchism was simply inaccessible by comparison.

Most of the anarchist movement had sneered at and avoided the internet (seen as an insecure tool of civilized alienation). Also it was illegible, most of the shit we expect you to learn/accept we don’t even write down. And getting involved? We’re terrible at helping folks join.

Anarchist recruitment for decades had been primarily social / subcultural, with a fringe of super committed altruistic nerds who would persevere.

There was simply no recruitment machinery for randos who wanted to quickly join, learn shit, and gain standing via the internet.

(This is also related to why breadtube types tend to be so open to tankies and/or slip further and further from anarchist mainstream shit and towards tankie shit.)

There’s a secondary thread in all this which is the amount of low-quality anarchists that jumped ship to leftcom trash (because low-investment snotty status hierarchies in fb discussion groups). That’s kinda the path by which older anarchists made their way eventually to MLism.

Academic status hierarchies are also related to why some anarchists went leftcom.

These folks are also our fault because they usually had a very anemic knowledge of or exposure to substantive/contemporary/analytic anarchist theory, so leftcom shit looked better.

Anarchism is inherently more diverse & decentralized and thus illegible to newbs. Anarchism prioritizes individual agency and thus doesn’t do the “sign your contact info onto this sheet and we’ll order you around” recruitment. Also we’re ultimately opposed to status hierarchies.

But ALSO the anarchist movement got up its own ass. We derided the internet and avoided utilizing it effectively. We embraced illegibility as resistance, forgetting that accessibility is critical to undermining hierarchies. And we corrupted into playing internal status games.

Those internal status games meant people sneering at uneducated and very “liberal” newbs, gatekeeping people out just to maintain our eliteness. Not just gatekeeping in the sense of preserving hard won understandings and consensus agreements from erosion.

But my last thought:

Having more folks isn’t necessarily good.

An effective movement does require some filters, eg stopping abusers and opportunistic grifters at the door.

The upside of tankies is they draw away the shallow, status-driven authoritarian trash we never wanted.

30. Thirty Years Ago Today I Shot My First Fascist

Deleted reason: DELETED is this by an anarchist? doesn’t use the word, couldn’t find info about it online

Author: Ali Al-Aswad

Topics: anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, history, Palestine, armed struggle

Date: 30.07.2008

Date Published on T@L: 2024-03-06T10:01:55

Source: <>

The camp was in a remote location in the Zahrani river valley. Access was by a steep track that snaked down the hillside from the Sida road. The track came to an end alongside what had been a farmhouse once, consisting of a stone hut where some of the men slept. Beneath this was a much larger stone manger, this was unused except by a few chickens, but in the warm weather it’s flat roof became the main focus of the camp, being used for both eating and sleeping. Beyond this building were a few tents, one of which was my home. Straight ahead was a blind valley which held a concealed ammunition dump and field guns, but before that was a large tent in which several older fedayi lived. Some were recovering from injuries sustained in the conflict.

To the left of the manger a path led down to another stone building which acted as a storeroom for tinned food, dried foodstuffs, and also ammunition. The storeroom was built into the hillside, having a flat roof, and adjacent to this was a large stone water-tank, which had been cut into the terrain. Below the tank and next to the storeroom was a water-tap, and further along the path was the Zahrani river itself.

The camp was isolated and quite vulnerable, with the Phalangist-held village of Haga visible high on the far hillside across the river. Nonetheless, throughout my life, I have rarely felt more safe.

Ostensibly the camp was under the command of Abu Abdullah, a thoughtful, introspective man aged somewhere in his 30’s. He had jet black hair and a full beard. The structure of the camp was entirely democratic though, and it had a militant reputation. Only weeks before our arrival the men had refused Yasser Arafat admission to the camp because they disagreed with a political decision he had taken.

Our training instructor was Ali Hassan from Gaza. He was aged only 23, but after 10 years fighting, it was impossible to guess that. He was tough, but with a warm, friendly manner, and bore a striking (and possibly cultivated) resemblance to Che Guevara. We also received some technical instruction from Jaffa, a Russian-trained armourer.

The older men kept to themselves for the most part, but I got on well with them, on occasion drinking tea and eating freshly caught fish in their large tent. Abu Muhamed was of the same age as the others, but he was still a very active fighter, and once saved my life.

Also at the camp was Abu Fathi, a round black man, filled with humour. Muhamed Ali had come to fight all the way from Sarajevo, a town in Yugoslavia I’d never heard of at the time. There were many more at the camp whose names I forget.

On the last day of July though, as darkness fell, the camp was nearly empty. Why I cannot recall, but there was only myself, Ali Hassan, and my English comrade (who had been given the nom de guerre Jihad), sat out on the roof of the manger. The older men were probably in their tent, but would have been out of earshot, while others I think were at the house at the top of the track, which guarded the Sida road.

We had just finished eating. There was little food because of the war, and we ate simply, sharing a plate in the traditional Arab manner. Suddenly Ali Hassan became alert, motioning for us to listen. I could hear nothing untoward, but Ali said he had heard something down towards the river. We both grabbed our Kalashnikovs and I strapped on my belt containing extra magazines of ammunition. As we stepped into the darkness and towards whatever was there, leaving Jihad to guard the house and wait for assistance, I felt no fear at all, except perhaps that I might be afraid.

Turning left in front of the manger, we skirted up the steep hill to the right, eventually passing the open water-tank and crawling on our stomachs across the flat roof of the storeroom. We reached the edge, with the level ground next to the river perhaps 30ft below us. We looked into the darkness listening for the slightest sound which might mean a raiding party of Israelis or Phalangists.

Ali beckoned me towards him and I rolled over. He pointed towards the dense undergrowth next to the narrow path which ran alongside the river. As I squinted in the darkness I saw the shape of a man standing, then another kneeling, and others behind. I could make out perhaps 4 or 5, but there were most likely others hidden in the darkness. The ones I could see were carrying Kalashnikovs, which meant they were almost certainly Phalangists rather than Israelis.

On my stomach I followed Ali back across the flat roof. Then he jumped into the darkness. I leapt after him, the fall seemed to last forever. It must have been at least 25 feet, but I landed well on the path below. As we slid the selector switches on our rifles onto full auto, Ali gestured for me to aim to the left and he would aim to the right.

We both came round the corner of the stone storeroom firing. I aimed into the darkness to the left of our position, firing on full auto and raking my gun round until it pointed straight ahead. Ali did the same, but starting from the right. We emptied our magazines. The fascist raiding party did not get the chance to return fire.

31. Towards a New Oceania

Deleted reason: author not anarchist

Author: Albert Wendt

Topics: anti-colonialism, postcolonialism, Pacific-Islands, culture, purity, Christianity

Date: 1976

Date Published on T@L: 2023-04-11T01:25:03

Source: Retrieved on 4/10/2023 from

Towards a New Oceania

By Albert Wendt

  1. A Rediscovery of Our Dead

‘These Islands rising from wave’s edge –

blue myth brooding in orchid,

fern and banyan, fearful gods

awaiting birth from blood clot

into stone image and chant –

to bind their wounds, bury their journey’s dead, as I

watched from shadow root, ready

for birth generations after ….’

(from ‘Inside Us the Dead’)

I belong to Oceania — or. at least. I am rooted in a fertile portion of it — and it nourishes my spirit. helps to define me. and feeds my imagination. A detached/objective analysis I will leave to the sociologist and all the other ‘ologists who have plagued Oceania since she captivated the imagination of the Papalagi in his quest for El Dorado, a Southern Continent. and the Noble Savage in a tropical Eden. Objectivity is for such uncommitted gods. My commitment won’t allow me to confine myself to so narrow a vision. So vast, so fabulously varied a scatter of islands. nations, cultures, mythologies and myths, so dazzling a creature, Oceania deserves more than an attempt at mundane fact; only the imagination in free flight can hope — if not to contain her — to grasp some of her shape, plumage, and pain.

I will not pretend that I know her in all her manifestations. No one — not even our gods — ever did; no one does (UNESCO ‘experts and consultants’ included); no one ever will because whenever we think we have captured her she has already assumed new guises — the love affair is endless, even her vital statistics, as it were, will change endlessly. In the final instance, our countries, cultures, nations, planets are what we imagine them to be. One human being’s reality is another’s fiction. Perhaos we ourselves exist onlv in one another’s dreams.

In our various groping ways. we are all in search of that heaven, that Hawaiki, where our hearts will find meaning; most of us never find it, or, at the moment of finding it. fail to recognise it. At this stage in my life I have found it in Oceania: it is a return to where I was born, or, put another way, it is a search for where I was born:

One day I will reach the source again

There at my beginnings

Another peace

Will welcome me

(from “The River Flows Back’ by Kumalau Tawali, Manus, Papua New Guinea)

Our dead are woven into our souls like the hypnotic music of bone flutes: we can never escape them. If we let them they can help illuminate us to ourselves and to one another. They can be the source of new-found pride, self-respect, and wisdom. Conversely they can be the aitu that will continue to destroy us by blinding us to the beauty we are so capable of becoming as individuals, cultures. nations. We must try to exorcise these aitu both old and modern. If we can’t do so, then at least we can try and recognise them for what they are, admit to their fearful existence and, by doing so, learn to control and live honestly with them. We are all familiar with such aitu. For me, the most evil is racism: it is the symbol of all repression.

Chill you’re a bastard…

You have trampled the whole world over

Here your boot is on our necks, your spear

into our intestines

Your history and your size make me cry violently

for air to breathe

(from The Reluctant Flame by John Kasaipwalova, Trobriands)

Over the last two centuries or so, that most fearful chill, institutionalized in colonialism, was our perpetual cross in Oceania:

Kros mi no wandem yu Cross I hate you

Yu kilim mi You are killing me

Yu sakem aot ol You are destroying

We blong mi My traditions

Mi no wandem yu Kros I hate you Cross

(from Kros by Albert Leomala, New Hebrides)

The chill continues to wound, transform. humiliate us and our cultures. Any real understanding of ourselves and our existing cultures calls for an attempt to understand colonialism and what it did and is still doing to us. This understanding would better equip us to control or exorcise it so that, I the words of the Maori poet Hone Tuwhare, we can dream good dreams again, heal the wounds it inflicted on us and with the healing will return pride in ourselves—an ingredient so vital to creative nation-building. Pride, self-respect, self-reliance will help us cope so much more creatively with what is passing or to come. Without this healing most of our countries will remain permanent welfare cases not only economically but culturally. (And cultural dependency is even more soul-destroying than economic dependency). Without it we will continue to be exploited by vampires of all colours, creeds, fangs. (Our home-grown species are often more rapacious). Without it the tragic mimickry, abasement, and humiliation will continue, and we will remain the often grotesque colonial caricatureswe were transformed into by the chill. As much as possible, we, mini in size though our countries are, must try and assume control of our destinies, both in utterance and in fact. To get this control of our destinies, both in utterance and in fact. To get this control we must train our own people as quicklyas possible in all fields of national development. Our economic and cultural dependency will be lessened according to the rate at which we can produce trained manpower. In this, we are failing badly.

In a flash he saw in front of his eyes all the wasted years of carrying the whiteman’s cargo.

(from The Crocodile by Vincent Eri, Papua, Papua New Guinea)

If it has been a waste largely, where do we go from here?

My body is tired

My head aches

I weep for our people

Where are we going mother

(from Motherland by Mildred Sope, New Hebrides

Again, we must rediscover and reaffirm our faith in the vitality of our past. our cultures. our dead. so that we may develop our own unique eyes, voices, muscles. and imagination.

  1. Some Questions and Possible Answers

In considering the Role of Traditional Cultures in Promoting National Cultural Identity and Authenticity in Nation-Building in the Oceanic Islands (whoever thought up this mouthful should be edited out of the English language!) the following questions emerged:

  1. Is there such a creature as traditional culture?

  2. If there is, what period in the growth of a culture is to be called traditional?

  3. If traditional cultures do exist in Oceania, to what extent are they colonial creations

  4. What is authentic culture?

  5. Is the differentiation we usually make between the culture(s) of our urban areas (meaning foreign) and those of our rural areas (meaning traditional) a valid one?

Are not the life-styles of our towns simply developments of our traditional life-styles, or merely sub-cultures within our national cultures? Why is it that many of us condemn urban life-styles (sub-cultures) as being foreign and therefore evil forces contaminating/corrupting the purity of our true cultures (whatever this means)?

  1. Why is it that the most vocal exponents of preserving our true cultures live in our towns and pursue life-styles which, in their own terminology, are alien and impure?

  2. Are some of u sadvocating the preservation of our culturesnot for ourselves but for our brothers, the rural masses, and by doing this ensure the maintenance of a status quo is which we enjoy privileged positions?

  3. Should there be ONE sanctified/official/sacred interpretation of one’s culture? And who should do this interpreting?

These questions (and others which they imply) have to be answered satisfactorily before any realistic policies concerning cultural conservation in Oceania can be formulated. The rest of this section is an attempt to answer these questions.

Like a tree a culture is forever growing new branches, foliage, and roots. Our cultures, contrary to the simplistic interpretation of our romantics, were changing even in pre-papalagi times through inter-island contact and the endeavours of exceptional individuals and groups who manipulated politics, religion, and other people. Contrary to the utterances of our elite groups, our pre-papalagi cultures were not perfect or beyond reproach. No culture is perfect or sacred even today. Individual dissent is essential to the healthy survival, development, and sanity of any nation — without it our cultures will drown in self-love. Such dissent was allowed in our pre-papalagi cultures: what can be more dissenting than using war to challenge and over-throw existing power’ and it was a frequent occurrence. No culture is ever static and can be preserved (a favourite word with our colonisers and romantic elite brethren) like a stuffed gorilla in a museum.

There is no state of cultural purity (or perfect state of cultural goodness) from which there is decline: usage determines authenticity. There was no Fall, no sun-tanned Noble Savages existing in South Seas paradises, no Golden Age, except in Hollywood films, in the insanely romantic literature and art by outsiders about the Pacific, in the breathless sermons of our elite vampires, and in the fevered imaginations of our self-styled romantic revolutionaries. We, in Oceania, did not/and do not have a monopoly on God and the ideal life. I do not advocate a return to an imaginary pre-papalagi Golden Age or utopian wob. Physically, we are too corrupted for such a re-entry! Our quest should not be for a revival of our past cultures but for the creation of new cultures which are free of the taint of colonialism and based firmly on our own pasts. The quest should be for a new Oceania.

Racism is institutionalized in all cultures, and the desire to dominate and exploit others is no the sole prerogative of the papalagi. Even today, despite the glib tributes paid to a Pacific Way, there is much racial discrimination between our many ethnic groups, and much heartless exploitation of one group by another. Many of us are guilty—whether we are aware of it or not—of perpetuating the destructive colonial chill and are doing so in the avowed interest of preserving our racial/cultural purity (whatever this means). Maintaining the status quo using this pretext is not only ridiculous but dangerous. The only valid culture worth having is the one being lived out now, unless of course we attain immortality or invent a time machine that would enable us to live in the past or future. Knowledge of our past cultures is a precious source of inspiration for living out the present. (An understanding also of other peoples and their cultures is vital). What may have been considered true forms in the past may be ludicrous now: cannibalism and huma sacrifice are better left in the history books, for example. Similarly, what at first may have been considered foreign are now authentic pillars of our cultures: Christianity and the Rule of Law, for instance. It won’t do to over-florifythe past. The present is all that we have and we should live it out as creatively as possible. Pride in our past bolsters our self-repsect which is necessary if we are to cope as equals with others. However, too fervent or paranoid an idntification with one’s culture—or what one deems to be that culture—can lead to racial intolerance and the like. Hitler too had a Ministry of Culture! This is not to claim that there are no differences between cultures and peoples. Or to argue that we abolish these differences. We must recognize and respect these differences but not use them to try and justify our racist claims to an imaginary superiority.

All of us have individual prejudices, principles, and standards by which we judge which sub-cultures in our national cultures we want to live in, and those features of our national cultures we want conserved and those we want discarded. To advocate that in order to be a true Samoan, for example, one must be fully-blooded Samoan and behave/think/ dance/talk/dress/and believe in a certain prescribed way (and that the prescribed way has not changed since time immemorial) is being racist, callously totalitarian, and stupid. This is a prescription for cultural stagnation, an invitation for a culture to choke in its own body odour, juices, and excreta.

Equally unacceptable are outsiders (and these come in all disguises including the mask of adviser’ or expert) who try to impose on me what they think my culture is and how I should live it and go about preserving it. The colonisers prescribed for us the roles of domestic animal, amoral phallus, the lackey, the comic and lazy and happy-go-lucky fuzzy-haired boy, and the well-behaved colonised. Some of our own people are trying to do the same to us, to tum us into servile creatures they can exploit easily. We must not consent to our own abasement.

There are no true interpreters or sacred guardians of any culture. We are all entitled to our truths, insights, and intuitions into and interpretations of our cultures.

No national culture is homogenous. Even our small pre-papalagi cultures were made up of sub-cultures. In Polynesia, for instance, the life-styles of priests and ariki/alii were very different from those of the commoners, women, and children. Contact with papalagi and Asian cultures (which are made up of numerous sub-cultures — and we, in Oceania, tend to forget this) has increased the number of sub-cultures or life-styles within our cultures. Many urban life-styles are now just as much part of our cultures as more traditional ones.

To varying degrees, we as individuals all live in limbo within our cultures: there are many aspects of our ways of life we cannot subscribe to or live comfortably with; we all conform to some extent, but the life-blood of any culture is the diverse contributions of its varied sub-cultures. Basically, all societies are multi-cultural. And Oceania is more so than any other region on our sad planet.

  1. Colonialism: the Wounds

Let me take just two facets of our cultures and show how colonialism changed us.

[a] Education


I was six when

Mama was careless

She sent me a school


five days a week

one day I was

kidnapped by a band

of Western philosophers

armed with glossy-philosophers

textbooks and

registered reputation

‘Holder of B.A.

and M.A. degrees’

I was held

in a classroom

guarded by Churchill and Garibaldi

pinned up on one wall


Hitler and Mao dictating from the other

Guevara pointed a revolution

at my brains

from his ‘Guerilla Warfare’

Each three-month term

they sent threats to

my Mama and Papa

Mama and Papa loved

their son and

paid ransom fees

each time

Each time

Mama Papa and grew

poorer and poorer

and my kidnappers grew

richer and richer

I grew whiter and


On my release

fifteen years after

I was handed

[among loud applause

from fellow victims]

a piece of paper

to decorate my walls

certifying my release

(by Ruperake Petaia, Western Samoa)

This remarkable poem aptly describes what can be called the whitefication of the colonised by a colonial education system. What the poem does not mention is that this system was enthusiastically welcomed by many of us and is still being continued even in our independent nations — a tragic irony!

The basic function of Education in all cultures is to promote conformity and obedience and respect, to fit children into roles society has determined for them. In practice it has always been an instrument of domesticating humankind with. The typical formal educational process is like a lobotomy operation or a relentless life-long dosage of tranquillisers.

The formal education systems (whether British/New Zealand/ Australia/ American/or French) that were established by the colonisers in our islands all had one main feature in common: they were based on the arrogantly mistaken racist assumption that the cultures of the colonisers were superior (and preferable) to ours. Education was therefore devoted to civilising us, to cutting us away from the roots of our cultures, from what the colonisers viewed as darkness, superstition, barbarism, and savagery. The production of bourgeois papalagi seemed the main objective; the process was one of castration. The missionaries, irrespective of whatever colonial nationality or brand of Christianity they belonged to, intended the same conversion.

Needless to say, the most vital strand in any nation-building is education but our colonial education systems were not programmed to educate us for development but to produce minor and inexpensive cogs, such as clerks/glorified office boys/officials/and a few professionals, for the colonial administrative machine. It was not in the colonial interests to encourage industries in our countries: it was more profitable for them that we remained exporters of cheap raw materials and buyers of their expensive manufactured goods. So, the education was narrowly academic and benefitted mainly our traditional elite groups who saw great profit in serving our colonial masters who, in turn, propped them up because it was cheaper to use them to run our countries. The elitist and academic nature of this education was not conducive to training us to survive in our own cultures.

Colonial education helped reduce many of us into a state of passivity, undermined our confidence and self-respect, and made many of us ashamed of our cultures, transformed many of us into Uncle Toms and resonance and what V.S. Naipaul has called mimic men, inducing in us the feeling that only the foreign is right or proper or worthwhile. Let us see how this is evident in architecture.

(b) Architecture

A frightening type of papalagi architecture is invading Oceania: the super-stainless/super-plastic/super-hygienic/ super-soulless structure very similar to modern hospitals, and its most nightmarish form is the new type tourist hotel — a multi-storied edifice of concrete/steel! chromium/and air-conditioning. This species of architecture is an embodiment of those bourgeois values I find unhealthy/soul-destroying: the cultivation/worship of mediocrity, a quest for a meaningless and precarious security based on material possessions, a deep-rooted fear of dirt and all things rich in our cultures, a fear of death revealed in an almost paranoic quest for a super-hygienic cleanliness and godliness, a relentless attempts to level out all individual differences in people and mold them into one faceless mass, a drive to preserve the status quo at all costs, and ETC. These values reveal themselves in the new tourist hotels constructed of dead materials which echo the spiritual, creative, and emotional emptiness in modern man. The drive is for deodorized/sanitized comfort, the very quicksand in which many of us are now drowning, willingly.

What frightens me is the easy/unquestioning acceptance by our countries of all this without considering their adverse effects on our psyche. In my brief lifetime, I have observed many of ou countries imitating what we consider to be papalagi culture (even though most of us will swear vehemently that we are not!). It is just one of the tragic effects of colonialism—the aping of colonial ways/life-styles/attitudes/and values. In architecture this has led and is leading to the construction of dog-kennel-shaped papalagi houses (mainly as status symbols, as props to one’s lack of self-confidence). The change from traditional dwelling to box-shaped monstrosity is gathering momentum: the mushrooming of this bewildering soulless desert of shacks and boxes is erupting across Oceania because most of our leaders and style-settlers, as soon as they gain power/wealth, construct opulent dog-kennels as well.

Our government’s quest for the tourist hotel is not helping matters either; there is a failure to understand what such a quest is bringing. It may be bringing money through the middle-aged retired tourist, who travels from country to country through a variety of climates, within his cocoon of air-conditioned America/Europe/N.S./Australia/Molochland, but it is also helping to bring these bourgeois values, attitudes, and lifestyles which are compelling attractive illnesses that kill slowly, comfortably, turning us away from the richness of our cultures. I think I know what such a death is like: for the past few years I have watched myself (and some of the people I admire) dying that death.

In periods of unavoidable lucidity, I have often visualized the ultimate development of such and architecture – air-conditioned coffins lodged in air-conditioned mausoleums.

  1. Diversity, a Valued Heritage

The population of our region is only just over 5 million, but we possess a cultural diversity more varied than any other in the world. There is also a multiplicity of social, economic, and political systems all undergoing different stages of decolonization, ranging from politically independent nations (Western Somoa/Fiji/Papua New Guinea/Tonga/Nauru) through self-governing ones (the Solomons/The Gilberts/Tuvalu) and colonies (mainly French and American) to our oppressed aboriginal brothers in Australia. This cultural, political, social, and economic diversity just be taken into account in any overall programme of cultural conservation.

If as yet we may not be the most artistically creative region on our spaceship, we possess the potential to become the most artistically creative. There are more than 1200 indigenous languages plus English, French, Hindi, Spanish, and various forms of pidgin to catch and interpret the Void with, reinterpret our past with, create new historical and sociological visions of Oceania with, compose songs and poems and plays and other oral and written literature with. Also numerous other forms of artistic expression: hundreds of dance styles: wood and stone sculpture and carvings; artifacts as various as our cultures; pottery, painting, and tattooing. A fabulous treasure house of traditional motifs, themes, styles, material which we can use in contemporary forms to express our uniqueness, identity, pain, joy, and our own visions of Oceania and earth.

Self-expression is a prerequisite of self-respect.

Out of this artistic diversity has come and will continue to come our most worthwhile contribution to humankind. So this diversity must be maintained and encouraged to flourish.

Across the political barriers dividing our countries an intense artistic activity is starting to weave firm links between us. This cultural awakening, inspired and fostered and led by our own people, will not stop at the artificial frontiers drawn by the colonial powers. And for me, this awakening is the first real sign that we are breaking from the colonial chill and starting to find our own beings. As Marjorie Crocombe of the Cook Islands and editor of MANA Magazine has written: Denigrated, inhibited and withdrawn during the colonial era, the Pacific people are again beginning to take confidence and express themselves in traditionalforms of expression that remain part of a valued heritage, as well as in new forms and styles reflecting the changes within the continuity of the unique world of our Island cultures ... The canoe is afloat ... the volume and quality increase all the time.

One of the recent highlights of this awakening was the 1972 South Pacific Festival of Arts during which we came together in Fiji to perform our expressive arts; much of it was traditional, but new voices/new forms, especially in literature, were emerging.

Up to a few years ago nearly all the literature about Oceania was written by papalagi and other outsiders. Our islands were and still are a goldmine for romantic novelists and film makers, bar-room journalists and semi-literate tourists, sociologists and Ph.D. students, remittance men and sailing evangelists, UNO experts, and colonial administrtors and their well-groomed pouses. Much of this literature ranges from the hilariously romantic throught pseugo-scholarly to the infuriatingly racist; from the noble savage literary school through Margaret ead and all her comings of age, Somerset Maugham’s puritan missionaries/drunks/and saintly whores and James Michener’s rascals and golden people, to the stereotyped childlike pagan who needs to be steered to the Light. The Oceania found in this literature is largely papalagi fictions, more revealing of papalagi fantasies and ang-ups, dreams and nightmares, prejudices and ways of viewing our crippled cosmos, than of our actual islands. I am not saying we should reject such a literature, or that papalagi should not write about us, and vice versa. But the imagination must explore with love/honestly/wisdom/ and compassion; writers must write with aroha/aloha/alofa/loloma, respecting the people they are writing about, people who may view the Void differently and who, like all other human beings live through the pores of the flesh and mind and bone, who suffer, laugh, cry, copulate, and die.

In the last few years what can be called a South Pacific literature has started to blossom. In New Zealand, Alistair Campbell, of Cook Island descent, is acknowledged as a major poet; three Maori writers — Hone Tuwhare (poet), Witi Ihimaera (novelist), and Patricia Grace (short stories) have become extremely well-known. In Australia, the aboriginal poets Kathy Walker and Jack Davis continue to plot the suffering of their people. In Papua New Guinea, The Crocodile by Vincent Eri — the first Papuan novel to be published — has already become a minor classic. Also in that country poets such as John Kasaipwalova, Kumalau Tawali, Alan Natachee, and Apisai Enos, and playwrights like Arthur Jawodimbari are publishing some powerful work. Papua New Guinea has established a very forward looking Creative Arts Centre, which is acting as a catalyst in the expressive arts movement, a travelling theatre, and an Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies. KOVAVE Magazine, put out by a group of Papua New Guinea writers, is already a respected literary journal.

MANA Magazine and MANA Publications, established by the South Pacific Creative Arts Society (owned/operated by some of us), have been a major catalyst in stimulating the growth of this new literature, especially in countries outside Papua New Guinea. Already numerous young poets, prose writers, and playwrights have emerged; some of them, we hope, will develop into major writers. One thinks of Seri, Vanessa Griffen, and Raymond Pillai of Fiji; of Eti Saaga, Ruperake Petaia, Sano Malifa, Ata Maiai, and Tili Peseta of Western Samoa; of Albert Leomala and Mildred Sope of the New Hebrides; of Celestine Kulagoe of the Solomons; of Maunaa Itaia of the Gilberts; of Makiuti Tongia of the Cook Islands; of Konai Helu Thaman of Tonga. I am proud to be also contributing to this literature. Most of us know one another personally; if we don’t, we know one another’s work well. Our ties transcend barriers of culture, race, petty nationalism, and politics. Our writing is expressing a revolt against the hypocritical/exploitative aspects of our traditional/commercial/and religious hierachies, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and the degrading values being imposed from outside and by some elements in our societies.

But they cannot erase my existence

For my plight chimes with the hour

And my blood they drink at cocktail parties

Always full of smiling false faces

Behind which lie authority and private interests

(from Uncivil Servantsby Konai Helu Thaman, Tonga)

As I walk this rich suburb

full of white and black ciefs

I hear the barking of a dog

I listen to its calls

knowing that I am that dog

picking what it can

from the overflowing rubbish tins.

I say to you chiefs

bury the scraps you can’t eat

So no hungry dog will come to eat

at your locked gate

Chiefs, beware of hungry dogs!

(from Beware of Dog by Makiutu Tongia, Cook Islands)

In the traditional visual arts there has been a tremendous revival, that revival is also finding contemporary expression in the work of Maori artists such as Selwyn Muru, Ralph Hotere, Para Matchitt, and Buck Nin; in the work of Aloi Pilioko of Wallis and Futuna, Akis and Kauage of Papua New Guinea, Aleki Prescott of Tonga, Sven Orquist of Western Samoa. Kuai of the Solomons, and many others.

The same is true in music and dance. The National Dance Theatres of Fiji and The Cook Islands are already well-known throughout the world.

This artistic renaissance is enriching our cultures further, reinforcing our identities/self-respect/and pride, and taking us through a genuine decolonisation; it is also acting as a unifying force in our region. In their individual journeys into the Void, these artists, through their work, are explaining us to ourselves and creating a new Oceania.


32. Anarchism and Immigration

Deleted reason: author supports prison, see “The Anarchist Response to Crime”

Author: Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective

Authors: Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective

Topics: borders, immigration, Insurgency Culture Collective, syndicalist

Date Published on T@L: 2010-01-12 19:13:08 +0100

Source: Retrieved on January 1, 2005 from

You have the right to live where you choose.

You have the right to work where you choose.

You have the right to travel where you choose.

You have the right to associate with whom you choose.

You have the right to speak any language you choose.

You have the right to privacy.

Anarchists Believe In Free Association

This means that everyone has the right to live where they choose, work where they choose, and have social relationships with whom they choose.

Anarchists Are Anti-Racist

We do not believe in differentiating between people because of their ethnic ancestry. We believe that all privilege, discrimination, or segregation based on ethnicity, national origin, or cultural group must be eradicated.

Anarchists Are Anti-Nationalist

This means that we do not recognize the right of any government to legislate citizenship. We do not recognize the territorial sovereignty of any nation or the legitimacy of any national borders.

Anarchists Are Anti-Authoritarian

We believe that no one should dominate another, no national government should seek to dominate another, and no ethnic group, caste, social class should dominate another. We believe that society should be organized democratically and that the rich man’s government must be abolished. We believe that social peace should be maintained by the community and not racist cops.

Anarchists Are Anti-Capitalist

We believe that poverty and unemployment are intentionally created by capitalists as threats to use against and control working people. They are not caused by immigration which is simply the migration of people from areas of the World where land and labor are exploited by the capitalists to areas of the World where capitalists own powerful governments whose laws and military forces protect them and their wealth and do their bidding. We believe that everyone who wants to work should have a well-paid job and that jobs like raising children, not compensated by capitalists, should be financially supported. Under capitalism 4 out of every 5 dollars in wealth produced by a worker is stolen by capitalists, bosses, or government before they are paid for their work. We believe that it is possible for everyone who want to work to have a job where they can earn more but, work only half as much as under capitalism. We believe that people should not be restricted in moving across national borders to work to feed their families because there is plenty of work for everyone.

Anarchists Believe In International Labor Solidarity

We believe in Syndicalism, Industrial Unionism, and the use of Direct Action including the Stay-In General Strike where workers occupy their work places to deprive the capitalists and their police state governments the resources to attack us. We believe that the people who do the work should own the work place and share the benefit of what they produce and that wage slavery, where capitalists steal the value of what we produce and call it “profit,” must be abolished. We believe that capitalists and bosses who produce nothing and exploit our labor should be done away with and replaced with cooperative work places which are run democratically. We believe that working people of all nations should cooperate to insure that everyone has an equal standard of living and that transnational capitalist corporations can no longer force us to accept wage slavery, dangerous and inhumane working conditions, and the poisoning of our communities by pollution to avoid the threat of poverty, unemployment, or death by starvation or disease. We believe that working people can take control of their lives without any need for leadersor a government to tell them what to do because they know what needs to be done and are best able to make it happen.

Anarchism is the philosophy of freedom, social equality, and respect for human life. Join us. Unite and fight for a better world.

33. Anarchists Hate Racism

Deleted reason: author supports prison, see “The Anarchist Response to Crime”

Author: Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective

Authors: Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective

Topics: anti-racist, class, Insurgency Culture Collective, race, syndicalist, United States

Date Published on T@L: 2010-01-09 19:17:27 +0100

Source: Retrieved on January 1, 2005 from

What we believe

Anarchists believe in Equality between all people regardless of where their ancestors came from, what color their skin is, or where they were born. We believe in social equality regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We believe in an economy and community where everybody cooperates to make sure that we all can live healthy, prosperous, and pleasant lives. Anarchism is the philosophy of personal freedom, personal responsibility and mutual respect between all people. Anti-Racist Action is based on the ideas of Solidarity and Mutual Aid. Solidarity is our natural outrage every time we see an act of injustice or evil. Mutual Aid is the practice of people banding together to oppose a common enemy or confront a challenge that may seem insurmountable to individuals but, can be overcome when we work together as a group.

Where did racism come from?

Racism was invented by rich people to keep working people divided so they wouldn’t unite and overthrow capitalism. Racism originated with the European class system where people had pigmented skin only if they had to work outdoors. The rich considered manual labor the duty of inferiors and therefore viewed anyone with the characteristics of a worker as below their station. The term “blue blood” originated from the ability to see a rich persons veins through their pale skin. The term “gentleman”, “gentlewoman” or “gentry” referred to a person raised to believe that physical exertion was the work of inferiors. Aristocrats developed strict codes of conduct to exclude any outsider from the privileges they enjoyed. The power of the ruling class originated with ownership of the land which gave them a monopoly over food production. Control of the land eventually gave them influence over the government. Capitalism originated with traders and bankers who owned no land but, bought and sold the products of craftsmen and landowners. The invention of industry enabled these traders to outstrip the wealth of landowners. When Capitalists began to dominate the economy they aspired to live like the gentry which included their class prejudices. European countries exploring the world justified taking land from non-Europeans based on religious or cultural bigotry. Aristocrats who believed workers to be inferior saw “non-Christian” or “colored” people that they sold as slaves or forced into poverty and starvation by stealing their land as less than human (Blacks were worth 3/5 of a person in the U.S. Constitution and Native Americans didn’t count). They found that they could use their armies to force these people to live on less than they paid their European workers if they told the Europe an workers that “coloreds” would only get the dirty work they didn’t want to do.

There is no such thing as race

Biologists have found no genetic similarity between people who have been grouped as races because of their skin pigmentation. Human blood types have no correlation with racial groupings based on skin pigmentation. Humans with different ethnic characteristics, including skin pigmentation, are capable of interbreeding. Most Americans who are descended from slaves have some European ancestry. Skin pigmentation is a product of the geographic origin of a persons ancestors. People whose ancestors lived for many generations in tropical climates will tend to develop darker skin pigmentation as a biochemical defense mechanism against exposure. People whose ancestors lived in forested regions with seasonal cold and snow will tend to be more pale. History shows that all major language groups in the world show evidence of large scale migrations throughout history. Language groups were created by trade between peoples who lived in geographic proximity to each other. There are many genetic characteristics which transcend language families. This is because most groups have interbred with other groups to a great enough degree to share these traits across ethnic, cultural or linguistic barriers.

How do we fight racism?

The foremost thing we have to do is to attack the institutions which “legitimize” racism: Those political and economic powers which tell people that racist behavior and ideas are respectable rather than shameful. We must show that we believe racism to be cowardly, shameful and beneath contempt. We must embarrass those who are comfortable with their racism and show others who question racism that their anti-racist instincts are correct. Our best weapons against racism are our commonsense and our unity against racist violence and exploitation. Our goal is social equality for all people. We will achieve this after we do away with all the institutions who depend on racism in order to exploit us. Racism is motivated by greed and perpetuated by power and ignorance. We want to abolish capitalism in favor of worker ownership and self-management of the workplace. We want to abolish governments which create division to protect a few wealthy and powerful people in favor of autonomous self-governing communities who coordinate their activities through decentralized federations. We want to create free schools in the community where children can grow up happy and without bigotry. Doing away with capitalists, bosses and professional politicians and returning control of work and the community to people who do productive labor in a society where people can have as much as they can earn by working in a single lifetime will create a society where everyone who wants to work can have a comfortable life.

34. Black Trans Feminist Thought Can Set Us Free

Deleted reason: deleted no mention of anarchist word

Author: Che Gossett

Authors: Che Gossett, George Yancy

Topics: transfeminism, black transfeminism, abolition, black liberation

Date: 9 December 2020

Date Published on T@L: 2022-12-15T02:16:13

Source: Retrieved on 14 December 2022 from

How can we move beyond a mindset dictated by the logic of prison, policing and anti-Blackness? What is “abolition feminism”? And how do the politics of gender, including the criminalization of trans and nonbinary people, dovetail with our understandings of race? How can deconstructing racialized gender binaries help us move toward justice and liberation?

To confront these questions, I spoke with Che Gossett, a Black nonbinary femme writer based in Brooklyn, New York. They are a 2019–2020 Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Critical Studies in the Whitney Independent Study Program, and a Ph.D. candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as a graduate fellow at the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. They are co-editor with Professor Eva Hayward of University of Arizona of a forthcoming Transgender Studies Quarterly Journal special issue: “Trans in a Time of HIV/AIDS.”

George Yancy: Within a context where Black people, Indigenous people and people of color (or BIPOC) continue to be victims of a form of racist and capitalist carceral punishment, can you speak to the importance of what is being called “abolition feminism”? Please define the meaning of this important term and speak to its relevance at this critical moment in U.S. history and global history.

Che Gossett: My knowledge of the term abolition feminism derives from Angela Davis and Gina Dent’s critical labor. I think of it as an open invitation to the unfinished liberatory struggle for abolition that is also a Black feminist struggle against anti-Blackness and heteropatriarchy and forms of carceral and white feminism that continue to perpetuate these forms of what Hortense Spillers calls “grammars of capture.” Abolition feminism would not only entail the abolition of the normative version of “feminism,” as opposed to its reform, and is not just a project of negative freedom but one that is immanent to and animate within already existing ensembles of struggle. Spillers’s definition of Black feminism as a “critical disposition” is that it is “a repertoire of concepts, practices, and alignments,” that “is progressive in outlook and dedicated to the view that sustainable life systems must be available to everyone; it also stands up for the survival of this planet.” This concept really resonates with me and I see this as critical to a formulation of “abolition feminism.”

Black trans women and femmes have historically and contemporaneously battled criminalization and policing, the precarious violence of lumpen proletarianization within the capitalist political economy — underground economies of drag and sex were and are criminalized — and also the violence of the anti-Black and anti-trans libidinal economy. My thinking here is informed by Lindon Barrett in terms of how race is conceived as a set of libidinal and corporeal protocols, that is, where “Race is conceived of as a set of libidinal prohibitions” — an economy wherein Black trans people face anti-Black and anti-trans patriarchal violence that is both legal and extralegal. In this moment, I am also thinking about Layleen Polanco, who died at Rikers, in the women’s facility, where the carceral liberals and carceral feminists would have imagined her to be safe. As CeCe McDonald reminds us, prisons are safe for no one.

The premature death of Black trans women continues now in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic. I went to a powerful protest here in New York City over the summer for Black trans life, which was modeled after the 1917 Silent Parade. The march this summer was a powerful surge of rage and mourning where an estimated 15,000 people attended. This felt like a seismic shift. Black trans demands continue and there’s dedicated mutual aid and organizing happening that made that moment possible. The Brooklyn Liberation, The Okra Project, Marsha P. Johnson Institute, For the Gworls, GLITS and Black Trans Femmes in the Arts have all been doing incredible work at this historical juncture. GLITS just opened the first by and for trans housing complex, and all of these organizations and formations center formerly incarcerated trans people and sex workers.

Black trans women and femmes have been at the epicenter of the struggle against racial patriarchy.

Black trans women and femmes have not only been at the epicenter of the struggle against racial patriarchy — even while being exiled from and unthought of by feminism — but also there’s an analysis, a study of racial patriarchy that is made available to us through the 1970s political formations: an archive of zines and political grammar (fag, non-men, street queen, etc.) that continues and that is essential to and indispensable for the struggle against racial patriarchy and carceral violence in the present tense.

How do we creatively cultivate spaces that exist outside of carceral logics and anti-Black logics?

I’m not sure that we can ever fully in this “world” create spaces that exist entirely outside of anti-Blackness and its carceral technologies, since we are always under duress. I think one of the incredible lessons of the abolitionist movement, which is a form of critique and praxis, is that abolition is both an interior and external practice. I think of Jared Sexton’s brilliant synopsis: “Slavery is the threshold of the political world, abolition the interminable radicalization of every radical movement.” The radicalization is perennial. And rather than falling for the ruse of political immunity to carceral logics and anti-Blackness, perhaps knowing that this protracted struggle is one that preceded us, and will continue after, can sustain us.

There’s a powerful line in Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth that speaks to contamination and the illusion of purity and the need for an entangled effort: “everyone must be involved in the struggle for the sake of the common salvation. There are no clean hands, no innocent bystanders. We are all in the process of dirtying our hands in the quagmire of our soil and the terrifying void of our minds.”

Black thought has always been “thought of the outside” (to repurpose Maurice Blanchot). Part of this thinking of the outside is the project of moving against and beyond the coordinates of what Sylvia Wynter termed “our narratively condemned status” in her incredible essay “No Human Involved,” which she wrote following the brutal assault and viral circulation (the digital afterlife of slavery) on Rodney King.

Wynter’s “Towards the Sociogenic Principle” holds out a theoretical and political horizon for life beyond/against the racial and colonial figure of the Human, which she so brilliantly terms a genre. In this pathbreaking essay, Wynter parts ways with functionalism — the theory that the mind is what it does — and argues for sociogenesis: “if the mind is what the brain does, what the brain does, is itself culturally determined through the mediation of the socialized sense of self, as well as of the ‘social’ situation in which this self is placed.” For Wynter, not only is Man a genre but so too is (the theory of) Mind. Within a context where the mind-body problem is maintained, with its positing of an a priori universalized consciousness, the phylogenetic/ontogenetic dyad is a symptom of whiteness in that it ignores sociogeny and it can take that position of epistemic pseudo- or quasi-ignorance as a result of not experiencing racialization. In this sense, mind is seen as universal and given, as opposed to constructed.

One of the incredible lessons of the abolitionist movement is that abolition is both an interior and external practice.

To modify and repurpose theories of mind that posit underlying laws that determine the necessity for consciousness in the face of the question as to why living creatures, humans in particular, require conscious experience at all, Wynter extends Fanon’s theorization of sociogeny. She brilliantly shows how thinking with Fanon opens up “insights into the laws which govern the realm of lived subjective experience, human and nonhuman, which govern therefore, the interrelated phenomena of identity, mind and/or consciousness.”

Wynter makes a lateral move and offers, via her theorization of the Human as a genre, a de-hierarchization of life/subjectivities. This to me, especially in this moment of what anti-Black capitalist planetary destruction might look like, speaks to other formations and orchestrations of life that work toward new iterations of livability and inhabitability of this planet.

I have written about how cisgender Black men have suffered under the gaze of whiteness, how they have been rendered both invisible and hyper-visible. Within the context of the U.S.’s anti-Black imaginary, Black men are deemed criminals, thugs and brutal animals. My work here presupposes a gender binary that I leave untroubled. Could you speak to how violence operates precisely at the site of the gender binary?

The violent figuration of Black people as criminals, thugs and brutal animals — “beasts,” since they are imagined creatures, not actual animals — is also sexualized and gendered against Black trans, queer and gender nonconforming people. This can be seen with the anti-Black and anti-trans viral lithograph of Black trans sex worker Mary Jones in 1836. She was demonized as “monstrous” as she testified that she had “always dressed this way amongst people of my own colour.” Or, think about the news media referring to the Black, gender-nonconforming queer young people known as the NJ4 — whose struggle was the center of the documentary Out in the Night — who defended themselves against patriarchal and homophobic attacks and were prosecuted as a result, and referred to as a “wolf pack.” It is this aestheticization of anti-Blackness that we face in trying either to force us to be “normal” or in figuring us as disposable. Again, this is the discursive violence of what Wynter calls “our narratively condemned status.”

Blackness is gender trouble. The etymology of cisgender itself presumes a correspondence between assigned sex and gender, which fails to account for Blackness. Thinking here of Black feminist and Black trans studies’ deconstruction of sex and gender, of Spillers’s “ungendering” and also the work of Riley Snorton and also Zakiyyah Imani Jackson on the anti-Black logic of binary sexuation. As Snorton argues, “captive flesh figures a critical genealogy for modern transness, as chattel persons gave rise to an understanding of gender as mutable and as an amenable form of being” — this happens through fungibility. The slave is the ground for “modern” gender and sexuality.

In her writing on fungibility in Scenes of Subjection, Saidiya Hartman expands the conceptualization of the commodity form by showing how the figure of the slave as commodity is situated not only in the political but also within a libidinal economy of what Frank Wilderson calls “gratuitous violence.” Hartman and Fred Moten think of the commodity that speaks (which Marx only imagines) and, moreover, the commodity that screams. Black thought begins with the un-apprehension of being. Marx beyond Marx (to sabotage Antonio Negri). Hartman writes about the relationship between libidinal economy and political economy that is consecrated in the commodity form and its fungibility and trans-positionality. In a paragraph worth quoting at length, she argues:

The relation between pleasure and the possession of slave property, in both the figurative and literal senses, can be explained in part by the fungibility of the slave — that is, the joy made possible by virtue of the replaceability and interchangeability endemic to the commodity — and by the extensive capacities of property — that is, the augmentation of the master subject through his embodiment in external objects and persons. Put differently, the fungibility of the commodity makes the captive body an abstract and empty vessel vulnerable to the projection of others’ feelings, ideas, desires, and values.

Black queer and trans and feminist thought provide an arsenal of critique and praxis that allows us to think rigorously both about violence, and to think again alongside Frank Wilderson’s brilliant grammar, the demand for “gratuitous freedom.” The violence that you are describing is part of a broader matrix of the gender binary that constantly seeks to imperil and outlaw Blackness, despite the failed optimism of appeals to what Jared Sexton calls “borrowed institutionality.”

How might the discourse and praxis of Trans Studies help us to move forward, to a world where justice and radical love prevails?

Blackness is gender trouble.

One of the problems of the heralded moment of “trans visibility” is the assumption that trans is perceptible and knowable, that you can visually isolate trans or that there are more authentic versions of trans than others, which implies a kind of hierarchical and vertical visual economy. Trans visibility so often means surveillance, especially by non-trans people and also by the security state — from TSA at airports to the welfare line. This is rigorously studied and dismantled by Toby Beauchamp in Going Stealth: Transgender Politics and U.S. Surveillance Practices and in Eric Stanley’s brilliant essay on visibility as an anti-trans optic (and operation). I’m interested in how trans artists through their visual theorizing are subverting that order through iterations of trans “opacity” and troubling aesthetics as a racial and patriarchal regime. For example, Ser Serpas, who in a show in 2017 at the gallery Current Projects exhibited as “self- portrait,” undercuts the autobiographical notion of the self and its portrait, titled penultimate warrior. The “self-portrait” was an incinerated armchair that she had lit on fire after throwing estradiol on it. The armchair isn’t an armchair anymore; rather than perfected, it is undone. Trans as gender in ruins.

Thinking about another intervention and troubling of trans linearity and visibility within the frame of trans studies is Eva Hayward’s “More Lessons from a Starfish: Prefixial Flesh and Transspeciated Selves.” Hayward presents an alternative to the medical linear narrative of trans women and femme embodiment as ontological insufficiency and corporeal lack — the idea that to transition requires a supplement to an originary lack that is then solved by reassignment surgery that would make one into a “real” woman. Instead, Hayward shows how every cut is a fold, how there’s no lack but instead a transition of body from itself to itself.

Finally, in thinking about Black trans art and the afterlife of slavery, it’s important to bring attention to the incredible aesthetic, cinematic and archival labor of the filmmaker and artist Tourmaline. Hartman argues that the afterlife of slavery is an aesthetic problem and I see the work of Tourmaline as both an inhabitation of that problem, through speculative cinematography and what Hartman terms “critical fabulation.” Tourmaline’s film Salacia, which is now in the permanent collection of both the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate in London, as well as her films Happy Birthday Marsha and Atlantic is a Sea of Bones helps us imagine the Black trans aesthetics of abolition, as well as think of the historical temporality of Blackness and transness beyond the limits to and effacements of the archive of slavery.

35. Epistemelogical Anarchism

Deleted reason: Doesn’t seem to be anarchist in orientation.

Subtitle: The Philosophy of Jeet Kun Do

Author: Danielle Bolelli

Authors: Danielle Bolelli

Topics: Martial Arts, Jeet Kun Do, Bruce Lee, Taoism, Nietzsche, Buddhism, Nihilism

Date: 2003

Date Published on T@L: 2021-12-27T15:28:04

Source: On The Warrior’s Path Philosophy, Fighting and Martial Arts Mythology (Second Edition, 2003)

... whoever heeds commands does not heed himself. Break, break, you lovers of knowledge, the old tablets!

—Friedrich Nietzsche (Nietzsche 1892)

[I am] a man who wishes nothing more than daily to lose some reassuring belief, who seeks and finds his happiness in this daily greater liberation of the mind.

—Friedrich Nietzsche (Nietzsche 1892)

I must invent my own systems or else be enslaved by other men’s.

—William Blake quoted in Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins (Robbins 1971)


Almost thirty years after his death in 1973, no martial artist has gotten even close to achieving half of his popularity. Far from fading from memory, his legacy still inspires the enthusiasm of the masses. Frozen in time by a premature death, his image has been printed over and over again on the covers of magazines throughout the world. Long past are the days when his work almost single-handedly changed the way in which Asian Americans were viewed in the United States, gave Chinese people a tremendous boost of self- esteem, and opened the road to Hollywood for other Asian actors. Gone the days when his movies made the fortune of scalpers who could sell a $2 ticket for $45 or when, in some countries, his titles had to be withdrawn from theatres to ease traffic jams (Little 1996). However, judging from his enduring fame, the passing of a few decades has only contributed to turn the man into something bigger than life. Even today, he is the patron saint of martial arts magazines. In lean times, when the financial future seems bleak, a martial arts magazine only needs to dedicate the cover article to him in order to bounce back and bring up the sales. In the popular imagination, he was not just another martial artist. He was The Martial Artist. For countless people around the globe, his name has become the symbol for martial arts as a whole.

The man, of course, is Bruce Lee. In case I needed further proof, a recent experience reminded me of just how far-reaching Lee’s fame is. In this instance, a department chair from California State University at Hayward recommended me to consider teaching a course entitled “Bruce Lee: An American Icon.” By itself this proposal, coming from a serious scholar of a respected academic institution who bears no personal interest in the martial arts, speaks volumes. What Lee was able to do, in fact, was to fascinate many different kinds of people for very different motives.

For the same reason that Western movies have attracted millions of viewers, Lee’s role as a tough, lonely hero who fights injustice wherever he meets it is certainly appealing to vast segments of the public. Lee, however, added to this role an aesthetic beauty and a philosophical depth that were lacking in most of the Old West’s gunfighters. In this way, he managed to intrigue even those people (including considerable numbers of women) who are turned off by excessive displays of guns, testosterone, and machismo. It is undeniable that Lee’s acting career was centered on beating people up, but he had something going for him that was different from everyone else. He had style. When other people fought, viewers would only see a fight. When Lee fought, it was poetry in motion. Martial, but also art.