[sixties-l] Re: Anarchist meets Tom Hayden

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (jab@tucradio.org)
Date: Sun Aug 13 2000 - 01:30:53 CUT

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    Date:Sat, 12 Aug 2000 12:08:27 -0700
    From: John Johnson <change@pacbell.net>

    "It struck me as fishy, and I wondered who paid for flying all these
    people up here,"
    Zerzan said of Hayden's visit. "Other people were kind of eating it up."



    By Flynn McRoberts
    Tribune Staff Writer
    August 12, 2000

    EUGENE, Ore. -- For a place known as the informal capital of anarchy in
    America, this wooded city
    along the Willamette River is unusually tidy and polite.

    The streets are clean. Drivers don't cut you off in traffic. The mayor
    is a Republican.

    So how did a community renowned as a birthplace of the nation's running
    craze become better known
    as a laboratory for revolutionaries bent on knocking the legs out from
    under modern society?

    How did this home of ancient forests also grow a movement that disrupted
    the World Trade
    Organization conference last fall and has officials in Los Angeles, site
    of next week's Democratic
    National Convention, on edge.

    One answer can be found inside a small wood-frame house, along a gravel
    alley in Eugene. There,
    amid the musty smell of books neatly lining makeshift bookcases, lives
    John Zerzan.

    At 56, Zerzan fits nicely into Eugene's college-town feel with his
    carefully trimmed beard and
    wire-frame glasses. But looks can deceive: He also is a bard to a new
    generation of radicals.

    Green anarchists, some call themselves, and they believe humankind ought
    to return to the Stone
    Age. The high-tech globalized economy is destroying the planet, they
    argue, while impoverishing most
    of its citizens morally and financially.

    Some of anarchy's old guard dismisses their sometimes violent methods as
    misanthropic nihilism--an
    approach that has alienated more mainstream activists as well as the public.

    But Zerzan and his like-minded young associates believe that subtler
    forms of protest have
    accomplished little.

    "All the carrying of signs and trying to have a rational dialogue about
    it doesn't change a thing," said
    Zerzan, a Stanford graduate who worked as a taxi driver and a social
    worker in San Francisco before
    moving back home to Oregon in 1981.

    As if validating Eugene's newfound reputation as a seedbed of mayhem
    makers, Tom Hayden, the
    former '60s activist turned California legislator, visited just last weekend.

    He brought several community activists from Los Angeles to dissuade
    Eugene's anarchists from
    causing trouble at the Democrats' party.

    "It struck me as fishy, and I wondered who paid for flying all these
    people up here," Zerzan said of
    Hayden's visit. "Other people were kind of eating it up."

    Originally a Marxist, Zerzan got turned off traditional American trade
    unionism in the 1970s when
    members of an established union hassled him for trying to help form an
    independent union.

    Now, he's adamantly "anti-authoritarian," having struck up a
    correspondence with Ted Kaczynski, the
    imprisoned Unabomber whose Luddite views Zerzan describes as "extremely sound."

    To so-called anarcho-primitivists such as Zerzan, the wonders of high
    technology and the Internet
    actually are creating a population alienated from nature, hooked on
    Ritalin and Prozac, and headed for

    Children as young as 2 are being prescribed medication "to drug them
    into compliance," he argues,
    "and they might still go to school and ... start shooting people."

    Zerzan spoke earlier this week before leaving for Los Angeles, not just
    for the Democratic convention
    but also for the concurrent North American Anarchist Conference. Such a
    formalized conclave is not
    an oxymoron, he insists, explaining, "We're good at organizing," just
    not top-down.

    But like many activists who watched Philadelphia police arrest nearly
    400 demonstrators during the
    Republican convention--holding some on bonds as high as $1 million for misdemeanor
    charges--Zerzan is tempering his calls for property-damage-as-political-message.

    He won't denounce such methods, but won't call for any explicit
    destruction either. Recently, he
    consulted a lawyer, asking, "How likely is it that I'm going to be
    arrested as soon as I get off the train [in

    The mix of bravado and paranoia that marks many Eugene anarchists is
    partly the product of the series
    of street protests and riots that began in this Oregon college town on
    June 1, 1997.

    That's when the city set off what Mayor Jim Torrey calls "a tremendous
    uprising" when it removed a
    stand of about 40 old oak trees to make room for a market-rate housing development.

    Led by masked anarchists, an angry crowd clashed with police in a scene
    that marked a break from
    Eugene's usual fare of good old-fashioned sign-waving demonstrations.

    In fact, that long history of civic dissent may be a root cause of the
    more violent activism now equated
    with Eugene.

    "This community is very, very tolerant," Torrey said. So "it creates a
    higher hurdle if they want their
    message heard."

    The mayor estimates that his city of more than 136,000 has a couple of
    dozen "activist" anarchists;
    those involved in the movement say there are four times as many, with
    more than 1,000 proclaiming
    such views without taking part in protests.

    The activist core made its presence felt again on June 18, 1999, during
    demonstrations timed to coincide
    with a meeting of the major industrialized nations in Cologne, Germany.
    The windows of several
    stores were broken as demonstrators clashed with police.

    Less than six months later, a number of Eugene anarchists helped make
    protest history in the streets of

    Through it all, Eugene's police have struggled with how best to deal
    with such incidents. But Torrey,
    who kept a level head after a protester once vomited on him at a City
    Council session, believes the key
    is convincing officers to "keep your cool."

    "If you are prepared, you can allow the expression of opinion on the
    issues without having the
    destruction," he said.

    Torrey even disagrees with those who think the federal government should
    investigate the "ring
    leaders" of the protests at recent major economic and political
    gatherings. "I would err on the side of
    preparing, but not assuming the worst," he said.

    As for Zerzan, he plans to speak Saturday at the anarchists' conference
    in Los Angeles. The topic: Can
    traditional leftist organizing work, or should it be dropped in favor of anarcho-primitivism.

    Before society is taken back to the Stone Age, however, Zerzan and his
    associates have a more pressing
    concern in L.A. "We're just hoping," he said, "to come out of there alive."

    John Johnson
    Change-Links Progressive Newspaper
    Subscribe to our list server. Email change-links-subscribe@egroups.com
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