Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ZOMG: Wall Street Is War Street!

Those were the friendly words greeting me at my mailbox today, as apparently I was delivered the full catalogue of the AK Press. Two goons with black balaclavas, black gloves, and black slacks were pictured in stark black and white, carrying a minimalist placard with the pithy phrase "WALL ST. IS WAR ST."

"For me? You're too kind!" I thought to myself, but was much disappointed after I flipped over. It was addressed to the former tenant, a raging anarchist apparently. So started my trip down irony street for the evening.

First was the bold declaration on the back touting AK Press as a premier source of anarchist literature. "Oh really?" I wondered. "Surely they must have works by Murray Rothbard, or a little bit of Hans-Hermann Hoppe!". Alas, no. But they *did* have a full back-catalogue of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Bill Ayers.

Of course, I knew better. The little red and black flag in the corner signifies that this publication was of the anarcho-syndicalist brand of anarchy. This is important because the publication touts itself as just plain anarchism, and it's only if you bother to read a dozen pages into their brochure that they mention "syndicalism". In other words, they arrogantly co-opt a whole entire movement of a wide variety of thinkers--such as, for example, Christian anarchists, or agorists. It is intellectual dishonesty. This isn't unexpected however: those on the left of the statist variety, the modern day liberals, did something similar when they co-opted the term "liberal", and warped to the point where it no longer resembles classical liberalism.

If you forgive the foray into deconstructionism, it's interesting to analyse the materials themselves. It is more or less a combination marketing brochure with full media catalogue: movies, music, books, and merchandise. The cover is simple, intriguing, and accurately summarizes the subject matter. Everything in this book is categorized, summarized, organized to benefit the consumer in the purchase collective-anarchist material. At the same time, it's printed with newsprint to cut costs. What I'm trying to say here is that AK Press has created an excellent market-based product. Whoever is working in their marketing department is no slouch. I would say that it's even a fine example of capitalism! It's also quite aware of its own hypocrisy. From the section entitled "Isn't an 'anarchist business' an oxymoron?":

There's definitely something strange and contradictory about the concept of an anarchist business. AK Press works hard to destroy and move beyond capitalism, toward a non-exploitative, sustainable, and just economy. However, like it or not, capitalism is the only game in town at the moment.

I couldn't agree more! It's the only game in town because well... it's the only game that works. The market has been in existence ever since Ogg traded a hunk of flint for Zugzug's dried fish. Eventually, Lothar of the Hill People discovered cowry shells were a good store of value when flint and fish were unavailable. Though I have to admit, Cave Clan's Collective Coop makes some wicked magic brownies.

Fortunately, the newsprint of AK Press makes good tinder for my fireplace. Reduce, re-use and recycle, I say! Though I think you can guess as to whether I'll be pulling off the shelf "A People's History of the United States" or "Road to Serfdom" to read next to a roaring fire.

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