The Activist: A Student Journal of Politics and Opinion Vol 15, #1-2 (1975)

The Activist Vol 15, #1-2 (1975). The Wages for Housework issue.

The Activist was a publication run by students at Oberlin College in the 1960s and 1970s and printed a number of relevant (to this project) pieces over the years. This issue (technically two issues in one) was entirely about Wages for Housework and prints the following articles:

  • Editorial collective: “Women are Workers Too”‘
  • “Wages for Housework: If Women Were Paid For All We Do There’d be a Lot of Wages Due”
  • Windsor, ON Wages for Housework Collective: “Portrait of a Canadian Housewife”
  • Toronto, ON Wages for Housework: “Wages for Housework: Questions and Answers”
  • Wages Due Collective: “Fucking is Work”
  • Suzie Fleming: “All Women are Housewives”
  • Sylvia Gentile and Betsy Lewis: “History of our Collective”
  • Modern Times Collective (Cleveland): “The Social Factory”
  • Wages for Housework Bibliography

Within our copy was a letter from one of the editors to a member of the Amazon Bookstore collective in Minneapolis, which gives a few useful details for how the journal came to be. Here’s a clip of the relevant piece:

The opening paragraphs in the introductory editorial of the journal lay out the gender and class analysis that the issue centers:

Those opening paragraphs harken to long-time debates within Marxist thought and activism, and specifically the heavy 1970s debates on “productive” and “unproductive” labor that proliferated in journals, books and pamphlets at the time. (That debate obviously still continues within anti-capitalist thought). Activists who furthered the wages for housework’ perspective took strong influence from the welfare rights movement and other struggles for a social wage, and they intervened in class debates with a perspective that shook the ground: reproductive labor (e.g. the work of housewives) is made invisible by capital, even though capital relies on it to exist, and the demand for wages for that work was a strategy for working class power and the restructuring of society:

Organizing autonomously as women was key:

Like the Wages for Housework campaign in general, the journal was internationalist in perspective and scope. Articles were sourced from far outside of Ohio and, reprinting an introductory pamphlet to Wages for Housework, activists clearly saw themselves as part of a global struggle:

The articles that make-up this issue are disproportionately sourced from Canadian organizing, which is likely attributable to the impact that participating in the Montreal Wages for Housework conference in 1975 had on members of the Oberlin Wages for Housework campaign.

The last piece in the journal is entitled “The Social Factory”. The article, written by members of Cleveland’s Modern Times Collective (including activists in Wages for Housework) in Cleveland, would travel internationally and provide an important and concise take on a perspective, rooted in Italian operaist analyses, that the factory had extended beyond its walls. Louise Toupin, a political scientist and Wages for Housework activist, notes in her important 2018 book Wages for Housework: A History of An International Feminist Movement, 1972-77:

From Toupin’s 2018 book, p. 267.

The pieces notes its history in both a footnote and in the text itself. Here is the note:

And here are, perhaps, the key points across work, class, and gender:

“The Social Factory” would be the cover article for issue five of the Falling Wall Review, the journal of Falling Wall press in the UK, which in this issue focused on Wages for Housework and autonomist perspectives (articles from Bruno Ramirez, Ferrucio Gambino and others appear).

On a related sidenote, found within our copy of the fifth issue of Falling Wall Review was an advertisement for the first issue of Zerowork, which was distributed by the Falling Wall Book Service:

Flier for ordering Zerowork: Political Materials (1) found inserted in our copy of Falling Wall Review #5

This issue of The Activist is oddly scarce – student journals are typically not difficult to come by but we have seen only a few in the trade over recent years. Still, it’s inexpensive when it does show up (as are all issues of The Activist that we’ve seen). We could not locate a copy online, so we scanned and uploaded it to Libcom, here, for interested readers.

Waterfront Supercargo – A Singlejack Little Book by Tom Murray (1980)

This 1980 booklet by Tom Murray was released in 1980 as one of the Singlejack Little Books. It begins with Murray’s note, “It is therefore the purpose of this book to shed a little light on a rapidly disappearing group: the men of the San Francisco waterfront.”

If you’re curious what ‘Supercargo’ is, here’s a definition: “the title a hold over from the old days, and denoted the company representative responsible for all functions involved in loading or discharging a vessel. In years past he had the authority to hire and fire both clerks and longshoremen, select and decide what cargo must be loaded and where and how in a loading vessel; to order and release tugboats if required, as well as derrick and flat barges and to order lighters of fuel oil (often called “bunkers”) for the ship’s consumption. He ordered potable water for the ship’s tanks, kept up the necessary tonnage, cargo and stowage papers, as well as myriads of other clerical details; he ordered the vessel shifted from terminal to terminal when necessary, as well as linemen to “let go” the lines at the present dock, and others to “take in” the mooring lines at the next dock. In short, practically whatever detail had to be taken care of, the old-time Supercargo did it. However, from the early 30s on the title Supercargo persisted but he was actually no more than a supervisor of clerks engaged between dock office, Walking boss and clerks. Very few if any domestic steamship lines use the old-time Supercargo per se, as his functions are now performed by a number of lesser individuals.”

Tom Murray passed away in 1979, before the booklet was published.

While this one is a bit drier than the other booklets in the series, it’s got lots of useful information for this interested in how waterfront work looked last century. Like the other Little Book(s), this book is common in the trade.

For those interested we have posted a scan on Libcom, here (not our best scanning job, apologies in advance).

From DuBois to Fanon – C.L.R. James (1970)

This short booklet is a bit of a mystery. Grimshaw (1992), in The C.L.R. James Reader, simply lists it as “From DuBois to Fanon, (text of a talk), Michigan, 1970, 4 pp.” The “additional copies from” groups listed on the front include the Black Liberation Front International (B.L.FI.), a Pan-Africanist student group based at Michigan State University (some descriptive info can be found on p. 8, here). B.L.F.I. founders included the important activist and theorist Kimathi Mohammed; Michael Hudson (author of the 1972 book Super Imperalism: The Origins and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance); Sam Riddle; Kenyan historian and activist, Maina Kinyatti; Mike Tripp; and Kamuyu Kang’ethe. (Useful context and history on the group, including their intersection with James, can be found in Joy Karenga’s article here, Don Coleman’s dissertation here, and Matthew Quest’s dissertation here). Also listed are the Pan African Institute for Self Reliance, and Friends of Facing Reality Publishing (F.F.R.P.).

The booklet uses “DuBois” rather than “Du Bois” and looks at the trajectory between the two intellectuals and activists. James discusses DuBois, Nkrumah, Padmore, and Fanon in typical sweeping prose.

This booklet is uncommon but not rare. At the time of writing there is one copy in the trade (for $75) and is held at at least four institutions. Our copy has some staining and dog ears but it is in good condition otherwise. We could not locate it online so have scanned a copy to Libcom, here.

Facing Reality – Andre Gorz’s copy gifted from C.L.R. James

Facing Reality: The New SocietyWhere to Look for It. How to Bring it Closer. A Statement for Our Time is the preeminent document of the Correspondence and Facing Reality groups. The book was written by C.L.R James, Grace Lee, and Cornelius Castoriadis, each using pen names at the time. Initially begun as pamphlet on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (Ward 2016, pp. 239-242), the authors expanded its drastically and ended up penning a groundbreaking global analysis of struggle against and beyond bureaucracy and capitalism. It was published by the Correspondence group in 1958 and was the first book project they took on.

Andre Gorz was an important thinker in the French New Left and radical ecology.

This example of the Facing Reality pamphlet was gifted from C.L.R. James to Gorz. It carries a stamp on the cover noting James’s authorship and a small inscription from James to Gorz inside. The address on the inside front page has a sticker laid-over it with the Facing Reality address in Detroit. James has crossed over ‘J.R. Johnson’ and placed his name in pen. A beautiful and unique copy.

“Do You Remember Revolution?” Emergency Magazine (1983/84)

Emergency was a relatively short lived journal out of the UK in the 1980s. The editorial collective (listed in the image below) included, amongst others, John Merrington, an important figure in bridging Italian autonomist thought and politics with sympathetic theorists and activists in the UK and U.S (see P. Linebaugh’s 1997 obituary here, H. Cleaver’s mention of Merrington here, and Merrington’s role in the publication of Negri’s Revolution Retrieved here). Merrington was also a corresponding editor for Zerowork 1 and part of the editorial collective for Zerowork 2. Ed Emery (Red Notes) is generally credited with the translation of the article, but no credit for publication is given in this specific printing.

“Do You Remember Revolution?” was originally published in Il Manifesto in 1983. The context of the piece includes the Italian “state of emergency” that facilitated the mass state repression of the extra-parliamentary left in the late 1970s and early 1980s, changes in class composition as a result of struggles of preceding years, the historic compromise, the rise of the Red Brigades (and the increasing isolation of clandestine armed struggle groups), and the international media witch-hunt against Toni Negri and other militants. The piece is signed by prisoners held at Rebibbia, including: Lucio Castellano, Arrigo Cavallina, Gustino Cortiana, Mario Delmaviva, Luciano Ferrari-Bravo, Chicco Funaro, Toni Negri, Paolo Pozzi, Franco Tommei, Emilio Vesce and Paolo Virno.

“Do You Remember Revolution?” is historically quite important as document written by political prisoners (including key figures in the autonomist movement and tradition), as an analysis of state repression in context of changing class composition, and as an oft-cited article that circulated in the autonomist milieus in Europe and the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s. Negri’s thinking plays a central role here. Within its short paragraphs we see the change from the “mass worker” to the “social worker” and the shift from classic workerist struggles to the demands for an income separate from work and the space to live life on self-determined terms. The piece is a very powerful and clear example of an analysis of class composition and movement dynamics.

The Emergency introduction to “Do You Remember Revolution?” emphasizes that it is forward-looking and part of debates within the Italian radical left: “It is part of the attempt to find, or recover, the political space for the new movements that emerged outside established politics in the seventies, a space that was closed off by the military confrontation between the ‘practice of the terrorist organisations amid generalised state repression.”

The first English appearance of “Do You Remember Revolution?” is often credited to Negri’s Revolution Retrieved, published by Red Notes in 1988 (translations by Ed Emery with notes from Merrington). The Emergency publication of predates Revolution Retrieved by roughly five years. The piece was also reprinted for academic audiences in Hardt & Virno’s 1996 book Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics.

The journal is surprisingly scarce, especially given that it was distributed by Pluto Press (a much smaller outfit for sure in the early 1980s). Issues show up in the trade once in a while but not often, and we could locate few institutional holdings at the time of writing. (Importantly, MayDay Rooms holds a copy).

For those interested in the introduction by the Emergency collective and its appearance in the journal, we have scanned a copy and posted it to Libcom – here.

The Correspondence Booklet: Selections From a Paper That is Written, Edited and Circulated by its Readers (1984)

Given the importance of Correspondence – the group and the publishing project – it is curious that much of their material is not readily available on the internet. The Correspondence Publishing Committee marks the move of C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, Grace Lee, Martin Glaberman and other key figures of autonomist Marxism away from dissident Trostkyism into a fundamentally new political effort. Rosengarten (2008) notes:

“In July 1947, James, Dunayevskaya, and others withdrew from the [Workers Party] and in September rejoined the SWP, whose membership and influence were growing at a remarkable rate at the time. This affiliation lasted for only four years: in 1951 [James] and other like-minded JFT comrades broke definitively with Trotskyism and sought to translate the ideas of the [Johnson Forest Tendency] into a program of political action committed to a renewal of revolutionary socialism. The group took the seemingly anodyne name of the Correspondence Publishing Committee. The name was inspired by Committees of Correspondence formed between 1774 and 1776 that became “the most radical political force of the [American] revolution”… The remnant of the JFT that continued to function as a more or less cohesive group after 1951` and up to 1970 was also known for the publications it produced under the name Facing Reality, which was the title of an influential book of 1958” (p. 25).

In his remarkable biography, In Love and Struggle: The Revolutionary Lives and James & Grace Lee Boggs (2016), Ward includes an enlightening chapter that explores Correspondence in depth (“Building Correspondence,” pp. 156-197). Ward begins his chapter by discussing how the newspaper Correspondence became indistinguishable from the group Correspondence:

“The group in effect became the Correspondence Publishing Committee. The group’s “chairman,” Raya Dunayevskaya, said as much in a speech to the Detroit membership just two weeks after the convention when she described the paper not just as a project of the organization or a stage in its life, “but as the organization itself. We breathe the paper all over the place now as our way of life, and all else follows.” Correspondence was to be the center of their activity and the full expression of their politics” (p. 156).

Ward identifies three “closely linked ideas [that] formed the ideological foundation of Correspondence: affirming the role of the working class as the agent of revolutionary change; rejecting the concept of the vanguard party and instead celebrating the self-activity and spontaneous mobilization of the working class; and standing in full opposition to all forms of bureaucratic control” (p. 158).

The Correspondence Booklet is the kind of text that could serve as a theoretical and historical introduction to autonomist Marxism for unfamiliar readers. In its 64 pages of pieces published in the newspaper, the pamphlet includes pieces that explore state-capitalism, unions as barriers to worker control, bureaucracy, popular culture, self-activity, anti-racism, white chauvinism, sexism, housework and various other themes. (Selma James, in early contributions of her career, writes about women’s experiences in here as ‘Marie Brent’).

This pamphlet is rare. At the time of writing we are unable to locate an institutionally-held copy in OCLC, though it’s likely held in at least a couple of collections (e.g. the Martin & Jessie Glaberman Papers at Wayne State). There is a single copy available in the trade at the time of writing (for $150). We have scanned the pamphlet and posted it to Libcom, here, for interested readers.

Night Shift in a Pickle Factory – A Singlejack Little Book by Steve Turner. 1980.

Stan Weir published a few ‘little books’ in 1980 including Night Shift in a Pickle Factory. This booklet is Steve Turner’s recollection of his time in a pickle factory. This is a very quick read and there are echoes of the core themes one finds in Weir’s writings: informal work groups, sabotage, and humor. It’s a great example of workers’ writing. This book is common in the trade and also held in many institutions but had not been put online as of the time of writing. We have scanned a copy and posted it to Libcom (here).

Bewick Editions – February 2001 Mail Order Catalog

Bewick Editions (written as Bewick/Ed on my publications) was the small press started by and run by Marty Glaberman. This 2001 catalog is a helpful rundown of its publications. Glaberman also sold pamphlets from fellow travelers like Black & Red (run by Lorraine Perlman, also in Detroit).

Bewick Editions was named after the street where Glaberman lived in Detroit (Bewick St).

Martin Glaberman – The Grievance: Poems from the Shop Floor (a Singlejack Little Book). 1980.

Martin Glaberman is a towering figure in the tradition of autonomist Marxism. Glaberman (he went by Marty) was a member of the Workers Party, the Johnson-Forest tendency, Facing Reality, and perhaps the person most responsible for ensuring that many of CLR James’ lesser known essays stayed in print. Born 1918 in New York, Glaberman passed away in Michigan in 2001 (Neil Fettes of Red & Black Notes wrote a powerful obituary that has since been re-published here). Not long after his death, Staughton Lynd wrote, “I consider Marty Glaberman the most important writer on labor matters in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century” (2002, v).

Regrettably, Glaberman’s poetry has not been the subject of much writing or analysis. Even in the bibliography he drafted in the preparation for his collected works, Punching Out & Other Writings (2002), he did not include a sub-heading to breakout his poetry by publication source (pp. xiv & 223).

The Grievance was the first published collection of Glaberman’s poetry and the only chapbook of Stan Weir’s Singlejack Little Book series. In scanning the Weir archives deposited at Tamiment Library we were, unfortunately, unable to locate specifics of how Weir came to publish the collection on his Singlejack Press; the folders did not contain correspondence between Weir and Glaberman. However, with the generous help of one of Tamiment’s archivists, we were able to locate the original paste-up of the publication. (Location is TAM 279, Box 7).

As we were preparing to say something about The Grievance we were humbled that Alice and Staughton Lynd generously gave of their time for us to inquire about Singlejack, and also to share some of their memories of Marty Glaberman. Similar to others who have recalled him, the Lynd’s recounted participating in a small reading group of Capital that he led. Glaberman – who also taught some of the core members of DRUM the same book – would drive hours from Detroit to Youngstown, OH to teach a half dozen people. Staughton also mentioned that he, unfortunately, was never was able to get Stan Weir and Glaberman together to meet.

The Grievance: Poems from the Shop Floor is a witty, funny and poignant contribution to workers’ poetry and, from our perspective, well worth studying. This booklet, one of the half-dozen ‘Singlejack Little Book[s]’, is common in the trade and found in many libraries (per OCLC). Yet the pamphlet still isn’t easily accessible online. We have scanned and posted a copy to Libcom for those who are interested (here).

Internationale Korrespondentie – April/May 1975

The striking April-May issue of Internationale Korrespondentie, an important Dutch left-communist journal. This issue presents early (and likely the first) Dutch publication of Paolo Carpignano’s article on U.S. class composition in the sixties and Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s ‘Women and the Subversion of the Community’.

Dalla Costa’s article (in this printing written as ‘della Costa’) is a Dutch translation of her seminal essay ‘Women and the Subversion of the Community’, first published in Italian in 1971 and then in initial English translation in 1972. Dalla Costa wrote an extensive note on the genesis of the essay in the English collection of her writings published by PM Press in 2019 (pp. 47-49).

The Italian version of Carpignano’s article appeared in 1974 in the book Crisi e Organizzatione Operaia and would appear in Zerowork 1 in 1975. The date on the Dutch translation is December 1973, whereas the English translation is dated January 1974.

The journal shows up in the trade from time to time and is held at a handful of European archives, mostly in the Netherlands. No copies of this issue are found in North American institutions. (The Martin & Jessie Glaberman Papers hold a couple of issues). We have scanned and uploaded the journal to Libcom for those interested (here).