Barbarians for Socialism (Bruce Elwell) – “Caged Heat” (1979)

Cover of Just Another Asshole #3

Following the dissolution of the U.S. section of the Situationist International, Bruce Elwell, one of its founding members, published many writings under the pseudonym “Barbarians for Socialism” (obviously a play on ‘socialism or barbarism’). To the best of our knowledge, many (probably most) of these writings were not actually published (Bill Brown of NOT BORED! has a listing of some of them on his bibliography of American SI writings, here). OCLC locates two holdings: a folder held by MoMA (here and also mentioned in the book Dark Matter, p. 53, here) and this 1979 piece, which is held by just a handful of institutions internationally.

Little has been written about Elwell’s publications following the dissolution of the American branch of the SI. The Wise brothers (BM Blob) in their classic pamphlet A Summer with a Thousand July’s mentioned that Elwell had written “one of the best leaflets” on the Brixton riots of ’81 (here). But we’ve been able to find little else.

The piece by Elwell is entitled “Caged Heat” ands refers to the former site of the Brooklyn House of Women’s Detention. The prison was built on the location of a former prison and courthouse. It was demolished in 1974. Here is a piece from the January 9th edition of the Daily News that illustrates its transformation:

From the New York Daily News 01/09/1974
Listing of participants/pieces in JAH #3

Just Another Asshole was a No Wave zine that was an important piece of the Lower East Side artist and underground scene of the late 1970s/early 1980s. Issue #3 was unique to the publication in that it was a graphic arts issue, and there were over a hundred contributors. It’s really a beautiful publication that we got lost in for a couple of hours.

The Barbarians for Socialism piece, written in “cooperation” with the “Anti-Stupefactionist League” is on a page split with artist Dan Graham. It is on the right side of the page.

We reproduce “Caged Heat” below, as it is not otherwise found online:

“Caged Heat” by Barbarians for Socialism

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