Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Really small firm size

In a little less than a month, I'll voluntarily end my employment at the big box bookstore where I've been working for the better part of a year, and strike off again into the realm of self-employment. The change has everything to do with the sorts of discussions we have been having about the merits and ultimate sustainability of the big-box model, and there will undoubtedly be occasions to talk here about the ways in which that model is already failing to provide either a pleasant shopping experience or a tolerable work environment. But that's for another day.

What the change means for me, my readers and my political allies is, in the short term, a whole lot more archiving, transcription, translation, publishing and writing from yours truly, and a number of opportunities for those readers and allies to help sustain the process. I'll be offering subscriptions to LeftLiberty (+ related pamphlets), to Liberty (Release 2.0) (a reformatted, annotated reissue of Tucker's periodical), and to M. Corbeau's Monthly Blackbird (a radical miscellany and book catalog), as well as a new, rapidly-expanding catalog of rock-bottom priced anarchist pamphlets, free for download, damn-cheap to distribute and still inexpensive in print form direct from me. And if the whole thing doesn't come crashing down immediately, I'll have mutualschool.org up and running sometime this summer, and then the next phase, good lord willin and the crick don't rise...

This is the project that I left the midwest to start, and that I was basically still too beat up to start right away. And it's really either a new beginning or a last stand for me, so we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Digital editions of Josiah Warren, etc.

Josiah Warren's writings on equitable commerce have suffered from scarcity. Although there have been library editions of a number of the titles, there have been few, if any, popular editions. Of course, during his own time Warren issued a rather confusing array of editions, changing titles in mid-stream. Nearly the whole series of editions is now available in digital editions. This includes the five editions of Equitable Commerce:
  1. Equitable Commerce, 1846
  2. Equitable Commerce, 1849
  3. Equitable Commerce, 1852 (edited by Stephen Pearl Andrews)
  4. (reprinted as) True Civilization, a subject of vital and serious interest to all the people..., 1869
  5. True Civilization, a subject of vital and serious..., 1875
as well as the three other volumes in the series:
and Stephen Pearl Andrews' The Science of Society:
We should also point to Sidney H. Morse's Ethics of the Homestead Strike, which contains a nice discussion of Warren's philosophy. Morse's Liberty and Wealth, serialized in Liberty, will be available in a pamphlet form, together with Ethics..., So the Railway Kings Itch for an Empire, Do They? (which originally appeared in Tucker's Radical Review), and some shorter works by Warren.

William Bailie's Josiah Warren, the First American Anarchist is also available, and my bibliography on Warren and equitable commerce is growing steadily as well.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Introducing, at long last! LeftLiberty and the New Proudhon Library!

I took versions of LeftLiberty 1 and the new translation of The Philosophy of Progress to the San Francisco Bay Area Bookfair, but there wasn't time to put together covers and do the web support for distribution. Over the next couple of days, I'll be updating the leftliberty.org site, launching Corvus Distribution, revising all of my current pamphlets, and making sure things are listed at Invisible Molotov. But sufficient unto the day its little list of milestones, and today I'm very pleased to announce that, at long last, both LeftLiberty and the New Proudhon Library are realities, with first entries in both series available for download. Completing the translation of The Philosophy of Progress only takes care of about 100 pages out of the 10,000 or so that remain untranslated in Proudhon's collected works, but it's been a long time since any real headway was made. John Beverly Robinson's translation of The General Idea of the Revolution was published in 1923, and there does not seem to have been a complete book-length translation into English published since then. We already have more than 750 pages in one stage or another of completion at Collective Reason, and much of that is Proudhon's mature work. But, right now, I'm going to revel just a bit in getting Benjamin R. Tucker's project of a Proudhon Library started again.

The first issue of LeftLiberty turned into a bit of an olio of material that has appeared here and there before, together with notes on the Proudhon text. Longtime readers of my blogs will find a lot that is familiar, but in the new context of a more systematic exploration of mutualism. My hope is that each issue will clarify a bit more what was at stake, historically, in the movement, and what it has to offer contemporary anarchists. There has been no way to avoid including some potentially obscure and difficult texts, and some material which draws on traditions that are almost entirely forgotten now. I hope readers will approach those texts with a healthy curiosity, and withhold judgment for a little while, as the contexts become gradually clearer. Anyway, here they are:
The second issue of LeftLiberty will be "A Doctrine of Life and Humanity," and it will be accompanied by new reprints from William B. Greene and new translations from Proudhon and Pierre Leroux. The third is most likely to be "The General Idea of Revolution," with translations from Proudhon and Anselme Bellegarrigue.

UPDATE: Several readers asked for non-pamphlet versions of these releases. Now, as I told Neverfox, I'm fairly certain that these are the kinds of things that require a little tree-killing, and probably a coffee- or whiskey-stain or three, before you're likely to really take them in, but for those who want or need to skip those more satisfying steps, here are some conventionally formatted pdfs:
I'm already at work on issue 2, which will feature a general article on "How to Read Weird, Old Stuff," and pick up some loose threads from this issue, but if there is anything you would like me to clarify from the first releases, please let me know.

What I did on my anarchist vacation

It's been a couple of weeks since we got back from the San Francisco Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, and I have few excuses to offer for not having posted a report on the trip until now. The primary one is, of course, that my participant-observation of the collapse of big-box retail (if it was a job, I would be making a living, right?) has pretty well absorbed my time and energy in the interim. But I've also been taking a little vacation from some of my usual activities, and trying to absorb the experience a bit. The trip was a real pleasure. David Houser and I travelled down with the folks from Eberhardt Press and Communicating Vessels (available at better bookstores here and there,) and stayed at a slightly creepy, but very clean "green" hotel in SoMa, and managed to walk up to Golden Gate Park every day. We did some of the obligatory book and music shopping in the Market District, and I spent some very pleasant time talking shop with the crew at Bolerium Books, where I found a copy of Tucker's translation of Proudhon's "The Malthusians," in a letterpress edition from Ishill's Freeman Press.

The bookfair was a lot of fun. We set up next to Black Cat Press, some very serious class-struggle anarchists from Alberta, who had a couple of very nice books about anarchism in the Ukraine, including the first volume of Makhno's The Russian Revolution in Ukraine, newly translated and nicely printed and bound. They were the best of neighbors, although it took a little while to make it clear we weren't "that kind" of market anarchists. I probably had my most serious, shortest, and most enjoyable debate with one of their collective members. Of course, we were the "libertarians" next to a crowd of Wobblies for much of the day, and people browsing from their table to ours would often stare, over and over again, and the black and red star on the back of William Gillis' editions of Kevin Carson's "Ethics of Labor Struggle" and "Iron Fist behind the Invisible Hand," then back at us, then at the rest of the Market Anarchy pamphlets, and then at the Proudhon pamphlets and "Emerson the Anarchist." I've already started a short flyer with the tentative title: "Does this Table Confuse You?" Clearly, it confused some, while others didn't take the time to puzzle it out, and just went to straight to head-shaking, muttering, nose-wrinkling, and/or sly "I'm on to you, you know" looks.

We sold a lot of literature, all of it dirt cheap, including ten copies of Proudhon's Philosophy of Progress, in my translation, bundled with the just-in-time bookfair edition of LeftLiberty 1, which is largely devoted to giving some context to the Proudhon (both for 5 bucks, just to get a few copies into circulation.) Lots of people remarked on how good Charles Johnson's version of the Market Anarchy series looked. We had a number of slightly thorny discussions about what we were all about, but no serious hassles. And we were able to bring together folks from three different local ALLiances. It was great to finally meet Charles and Nick face to face, and to spend some time in a different context with quite a number of Portland anarchists and fellow-travellers.

Part of the fun was, of course, running into people you didn't know you would meet. We got a chance to talk to folks from the Kate Sharpley Library, to Lawence and Aragorn! from Anarchy / Little Black Cart, Cast, from the Wikipedia anarchism task force, Fred Woodworth from The Match, and various other friends, foes, minor luminaries and/or names to conjure with in our little world. We all, I think, eventually made the rounds of the fair, and a couple of us stocked up on anarchist-communist stuff, in part because that was there, but also because there was some very interesting stuff available from folks like our neighbors at Black Cat Press.

All in all, the trip seems to have been a success for the ALLiance, and it was certainly a welcome break from my routine. Next step: make a few post-final corrections and get LeftLiberty out where the rest of you can take a look.