Giuseppe Guerreschi, Danilo Montaldi, Vietnam Suite, with etching (1974)

We hope to write more posts in the future about our holdings from the work of Danilo Montaldi, who is perhaps the father of workers inquiry in Italy (and whose conceptualization of the ‘working class’ encompassed those who American sociologists would derisively condemn as “the underclass”). Today’s post is about Montaldi’s remarkable project with Giuseppe Guerreschi, Vietnam Suite.

As Jacopo Galimberti documents in his newly published (and groundbreaking, for English-speaking audiences) work Images of Class: Operaismo, Autonomia and the Visual Arts (2022), Montaldi’s interests in art are an under-discussed part of his intellectual and political trajectory. His engagements with the Italian artist Guerreschi (collected in the book Lettere), including Vietnam Suite, were “intentionally or not, implemented an unusual type of co-research involving an artist” (p. 204).

Vietnam Suite, as a collection of etchings by Giuseppe that portray often brutal images related to the Vietnam War, was published twice, but with different texts. The first publication was a catalogue for the 1973 exhibit at the Fanto de Spade gallery in Milan, which did not contain Montaldi’s adjoining text. This second version was published the following year, in 1974, by Fratelli Pozo in Turin. Montaldi’s essay is entitled “Sul Vietnam, Problemi, Date E Immagini” (“About Vietnam, Issues, Dates And Images. To Nikolaus, Diego, Max.”)

Montaldi’s essay begins by explaining that it was in the “summer of 1947 that, for the first time, we heard about Vietnam, about the war in Indochina.”

“We are only ten years away from the Spanish ’37, from those days of May that had revealed how necessary it was, in order to proceed along the path of workers’ power, to carry out a revolution within the revolution itself. And we were only two years into the Second World War. Still fresh were the images of the great revolutionary writings on the walls of the Nazi concentration camps of the liberated Spanish fighters; Spain had been the testing ground for the second imperialist war; with Vietnam there was almost the impression of a new Spanish war.”

He goes on to describe what would become Vietnam War as “the war, in no other terms, the war of horror, of obsession, of hate” (rough Deepl translation). Montaldi is unsparing with his analysis of Ho Chi Minh. Following the Ho-Sainteny agreement of 1946, he sees a counter-revolution.

Behind the movement that led Ho Chi Min to the agreement lay the whole Stalinist conception of revolution in stages, no matter how many defeats it had had to suffer from China to Spain. The Viet Minh, i.e. the Indochinese People’s Union (l’Unione popolare indocineseed.), had, in fact, renounced to take measures that could put it in conflict with the feudal bourgeoisie: it had respected the Banque de l’Indochine; it had not proceeded to any agrarian reform, except for giving land to some collaborators of the Japanese; it maintained and legalized the usury system, limiting itself to asking for a lowering of the rate. Nor did he decree the abolition of debts and mortgages. He made a pact with the bourgeoisie by asking its representatives for financial aid, while on the ideological level he tried to establish a sort of unanimity based on racial presuppositions. On the other hand, in February 1946, in order to prepare the ground for the compromise of March 6, the Viet Minh proceeded to the massacre of the leaders, non-nationalist internationalists, of the Trotskyist communist party and of many of its militants, thus practicing counter-revolution in the revolution.

Relying on a particular reading of Lenin and Trostky on the question of so-called ‘historical materialism’, Montaldi argues:

The theory adopted by Ho Chi Min, according to which the backward countries must catch up with the countries of mature capitalism by overcoming, time after time, the stages they have passed through at other times – as if there were an itinerary of history constantly identical with itself, regardless of the mode in which it takes place – is the least dialectical theory that can exist; and it can only lead to the sacrifice of the proletariat, to a series of defeats. 

Montaldi soon transitions to discussing the violence of the war into the early 1970s, and Guerrechi’s work directly. Guerrechi’s etchings are haunting:

Vietnam Suite (1974) was published in an edition of 1000 books. The first 200 copies include original etchings, with 1-100 having one image, and 100-200 having another.

The book comes inside a gray slipcase. We hold book #168, with etching #68. The book is fairly common in the trade, but copies with the original etching are uncommon. We locate 6 institutionally-held editions internationally, via OCLC.

Blue Heron [Peter Linebaugh] – “The Silent Speak: The Incomplete, True, Authentick, and Wonderful History of May Day” (1985)

This remarkable pamphlet is the first published edition of Peter Linebaugh’s now-classic essay “The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day.”

“Blue Heron” was a pseudonym that Linebaugh used and the piece was written while he was living in the Boston area and teaching at Tufts (hence “Boss Town”). This beautiful essay has seen many editions since this 1985 publication. (It is of note that Linebaugh’s book on PM with the title “The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day” states 1986 as its year of origin, whereas this pamphlet appeared in 1985).

A capture of the Midnight Notes website in 1999 included the following note from the 1986 edition of the pamphlet, which gives some useful background connecting “The Silent Speak” to the pamphlet’s 1986 version:

“The little history that you’re holding in your hand has grown from an earlier version published last year called “The Silent Speak.” There’s more information this year, thanks to conversations in Quincy with John Wilshire and Monty Neill and thanks to newspaper research by Jonathan Feldman and John Roosa. Bryn Clark made a portable Maypole last year which we capered around at the Bank of Boston. We were gratified by the interest shown by lunchtime workers but also struck by how widespread May Day amnesia had become. So, this year we have added some ‘how to’ sections, on games (p.5), on the Maypole (p. 11), and on getting to Merry Mount (p. 16), which we hope may make it more practical. Last year’s May Day demonstration against Kruggerand gold encouraged us to add (an incomplete) list (p. 16) of the many May Day events this year. We especially thank Gene Bruskin and Jim Green who have helped to plan the demo against apartheid and the centennial celebration at Faneuil Hall, respectively. Dana Moser helped with the graphics. Hohn Flym, DeAnn Burrows, Mike Ryan, and friends in Teas, Rochester, Nigeria, Big Indian, Somerville, Belize, and Tufnell Park have provided support and encouragement. And thanks to the workers at Copy Cop.

Our copy of the pamphlet came with a neat flier for “Blue Monday: A Day of Resistance to all the Work-Makers.” The anti-work sentiment is transparent. We cannot locate any additional details of the event or source the symbol on the bottom right (if you have any hints please reach out to us).

The “Silent Speak” pamphlet is rare. OCLC locates two institutionally-held copies – one at Harvard and the other at in the Senate House Library at the University of London. We locate no copies of the “Blue Monday” flier.

We have scanned a copy of the pamphlet and uploaded it to Libcom, here.

Midnight Notes Collective, ” ‘Exterminism’ or Class Struggle?” In Radical Science Journal 14 (1984)

A particularly timely piece, published in 1984. As noted at the end of the essay, much of this article appeared in issue #6 of Midnight Notes, which was entitled Posthumous Notes (available here). The essay picks up on themes found in Midnight Notes’ 1979 essay “Strange Victories,” particularly the critical eye toward radicals who claim to be acting on behalf of humanity and the classed meanings of such claims.

The section “Elegy for E.P. Thompson” provides a strong critique of his assessment of nuclear war, which is notable in part given that Midnight Notes Collective member Peter Linebaugh was his former student and mentee. (The brilliant and extensive essay he wrote for Left History following Thompson’s death in 1993 is very much worth reading).

The second section, “Marxist Theory of War,” was written specifically for this issue of Radical Science Journal. George Caffentzis later returned to this in “Freezing the Movement and the Marxist Theory of War,” in his 2013 collection In Letters of Blood and Fire (available here).

Radical Science Journal began in the 1970s and was part of the larger movement to dissect science from a left perspective. Helena Sheehan’s recent essay on that in Monthly Review is worth a read.

This issue of Radical Science Journal is readily available in the trade but, to our knowledge, not yet available to the public on the web.

We’ve scanned this article to Libcom, here, for those interested.

Silvia Federici, The IMF & the Debt, Africa and the New Enclosures, with an introductory essay by Mitchell Cohen. Red Balloon, n.d.

Cover of the pamphlet

This pamphlet is composed of an essay by Mitchell Cohen and an essay by Silvia Federici. The date of publication is unclear but it was printed after the Zapatista uprising at the end of 1994 and before Spring 1996 (see below).

The Federici essay is a slightly edited version of her important piece “The Debt Crisis, Africa and the New Enclosures,” printed in an issue of Midnight Notes in 1990. There are some shifts in paragraph structure, but the main difference is that this version of the essay does not contain the conclusory section of the 1990 version (“Jubilees, Moratoriums, and the End of the Debt Crisis”) and there are no citations. There is a note in the pamphlet that this is a later version of the piece in Midnight Notes.

Excerpts from this version of the essay were later printed in the Spring 1996 issue of Turning the Tide (the Anti-Racist Action journal). A longer version of the piece, with fuller endnotes, was included in Federici’s collection Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons (PM Press, 2019).

We locate two copies in OCLC of what appears to have been an earlier version of the pamphlet printed in 1992. We locate no institutional holdings of this printing. We’ve scanned and uploaded it to Libcom, here.

James Carr, Bad: The Autobiography of James Carr (ed. Dan Hammer & Isaac Cronin) – All editions

Picture of Carr from the 1975 review of Bad in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Available online here.

James Carr’s Bad is an understudied classic that will leave a reader haunted. A PDF of the book is available for free at Libcom, here.

The bulk of the book is about surviving and navigating the decimating prisons and jails of the 1960s and early 1970s (these systems are still engines of demolition on communities and individuals). As has been said by others who have commented on the volume, it is a brutal portrait of the racist carceral system, first and foremost. It is also a portrait of a very complicated individual who found fucking with authority to be a worthwhile task.

From chapter 12

Bad is atypical of much post-prison writing in that, rather than tend toward a redemption arc, Carr’s narrative is unapologetic about the stories within. These stories are sometimes funny, heartbreaking, and often intensely violent (including repeated stories of rape), and are often told in a sort of matter-of-fact way that helps illustrate the violence of the prison system. The book also documents how support and movement communities developed during Carr’s time inside, and the myriad types of comradeship that got him and others through. Bad does not discuss Carr’s involvement with the Black Panther Party. Rather, it emphasizes, instead, autonomous activity within the prisons, and his efforts to find joy and build a family after being released.

Bad! was not written by Carr. Rather, Carr told his life in great detail to Dan Hammer (his brother-in-law) and Isaac Cronin, both of whom were immersed in the situationist/pro-situ projects of the 1970s. Hammer and Cronin then wrote the book using Carr’s narrative. Hammer, in his forward to the book, recalls the process:

In a detailed and very informative interview with The Brilliant podcast, Isaac Cronin gave a great deal of detail into the context of the writing of the book, the process of it, and some of the movement and personal dynamics that are relevant to understanding how it came to be. For those who are interested that podcast can be found here. It is of note that Cronin claims there were “ten printings in five editions” in France, but we have only been able to locate two editions (three if one counts the initial paperback and hardcover printings; the third, from 1994, is not in our holdings). Cronin also states there was a Spanish translation of the book, but we haven’t been able to locate it (if anyone who has information about it please reach out!)

This short blog entry will not discuss the specifics of Carr’s life that have been written, or the theories of who murdered him. For those interested in those discussions we recommend David Hilliard’s This Side of Glory (Little, Brown 1993, p. 302 & 381) and Jo Durden-Smith’s Who Killed George Jackson (Knopf 1976, some of which is here). We also recommend this entry on the newafrikan77 blog and reading the penetrating essay by his daughter, Gea Carr, entitled “Remembering my Father” which is available online, here.

This short entry will focus specifically on a discussion of the different editions of Bad and some of their context. For those interested in a critical reading of the text and the writing of it, we recommend Simon Rolston’s article entitled “Prison Life Writing, African American Narrative Strategies, and Bad: The Autobiography of James Carr,” published in 2013 and freely available, here.

Inside title page of the first edition

First English Edition (U.S.) – 1975, Herman Graf Associates

The first edition of Bad was published by Herman Graf Associates – named after publisher Herman Graf, here’s a sort of introduction – and, interestingly, published in mass market form, without a barcode. The book contains Hammer’s forward (which can be found online here) and Betsy Cronin’s afterward (which can be found online here at p. 199). Little has been written about how the book ended up on Herman Graf and how the publisher marketed/distributed it. However, Simon Rolston has provided a very useful note about the publication of the book:

In his interview with The Brilliant podcast, Cronin provides additional detail on the first edition:

Edited portion of The Brilliant interview with Cronin

The View from the End of the World: Live Interviews from Life in Prison with James Carr by Isaac Cronin and Dan Hammer – LP issued by Folkways Recordings – 1975

Cover and back cover of LP

The same year that Bad was published by Herman Graf Associates, Folkways Records issued a recording of three portions of the taped interviews:

  1. “Jimmy describes two incidents involving Muslim leaders which he witnessed when he was a 16-year-old juvenile illegally incarcerated at San Quentin”
  2. “The Wolf Pack, a black gang started by George Jackson, Jimmy Carr and a few close friends at Tracy when they were all teenagers, formed the basis for all militant black groups in the California prisons after the Muslims. The following story is from the Pack’s younger days – at Soledad in 1960 – and shows how dangerous prison officials considered a few brash black kids having fun.”
  3. “After a round of ‘bus therapy,’ being shuttled around the state while the authorities tried to figure out what to do with him, Jimmy was sent back to San Quentin. What follows is his overview of how a rebel convict feels in that giant man-trap at the end of the world.”

The LP contains a booklet with excerpts from the book and a short biography of Carr – a scan of the front and back of the LP as well as the accompanying booklet can be downloaded as PDF, here. Folkways Records is now owned by the Smithsonian Institution who have digitized the recordings and made them available online here.

German Edition -1977 (Editions Nautilus)

To the best of our knowledge, the first non-English language edition of Bad was published by the german anarchist press Editions Nautilus in 1977 under the title Die Feuer der Freiheit: Eine Autobiographie (“The Fires of Freedom: An Autobiography”). The edition includes the introduction by Dan Hammer and the afterword by Betsy Carr. The German translation was done by a person named Pamela Creegan who we have not been able to find any other information about.

German edition, Editions Nautilus 1977

First French editions – 1978 (paperback [Stock 2] and hardcover [Hachette])

In 1978 Creve! was published in French, first in paperback (by Stock 2) and then in hardcover (by Hachette). The two 1978 printings of Creve! do not provide additional details as to the context of their publishing, except that the text translated by Daniel Mauroc. Given the situationist involvements of Cronin, it’s our best guess that he would have coordinated this with contacts there. The 1978 hardcover edition is the only time the book has been published in hardbound format.

First French paperback edition
First French hardcover edition

Second English-language Editions (U.S.) – 1994, Carrol & Graf

The second English-language U.S. edition was published in 1994 by Carrol & Graf. This edition contains a new three page forward by Isaac Cronin, which we have scanned and posted to Libcom, here.

Front and rear cover of the 1994 edition

Second French Edition – Editions Ivrea (formerly Champ Libre), 1994

Cover the 1994 Editions Ivrea printing

In 1994 Editions Ivrea published a second French edition of the book. We do not hold this edition so do not have much information on it. Some information is available from the publisher, here.

Third English-language Edition (U.K.) – 1989, Unpopular Books & News From Everywhere*

The third English-language edition was a joint publication by Unpopular Books and News From Everywhere in the U.K. This edition is photocopied and comb bound. News From Everywhere was an important and influential publisher of anarchist, autonomist and situationist materials in UK during the 1980s. Unpopular Books, based in London, was also an important publisher of situationist, pro-situ and left-communist materials, and produced pamphlets and books through at least 2012. We do not hold this copy, and a search of OCLC finds that there are no institutionally-held copies of it, either. (We suspect an anarchist library in the UK probably has a copy, but those, perhaps regrettably, don’t make it into OCLC).

Fourth English-language Edition (U.K.) – 1995, Pelagian Press

1995 Pelagian Press edition

The 1995 edition was published in the U.K. by Pelagian Press, which was run by some of the folks involved with Here & Now, the UK post-situationist/autonomist magazine (archived here). According to a note inside the book there were plans by AK Press to publish a new edition in 1992 but tensions arose and they did not publish it, so Pelagian did a few years later. Here is the note:

Note inside the 1995 edition explaining the context of its publication

This edition also contains an important afterward written by David and Stuart Wise (BM Blob) and the person who ran the small but important UK anarchist journal/publisher News from Everywhere, which was written in 1993. It is available online, here.

Fifth English-language Edition (US/UK) – AK Press, 2002

Cover of the 2002 AK Press edition

In 2002 AK Press finally did publish an edition of Bad on their Nabat imprint. This edition contains Cronin’s 1994 forward but not the BM Blob afterward that was found in the ’95 Pelagian edition.

Sixth English-language Edition (US/UK) – Three Rooms Press, 2016

Cover of the 2016 Three Rooms Press edition

The 2016 edition by Three Rooms Press is, by far, the most professional and mainstream of the editions. The first two pages consist of blurbs about the book. This edition has a powerful forward by Carr’s daughter, Gea Carr, entitled “Remembering My Father: A Personal Essay,” which can be found online, here, as well as a couple of beautiful family photos. The website published by Three Rooms Press for the release of the book also contains some useful information, and is here.

The Three Rooms Press edition does not contain Cronin’s 1994 forward or Dan Hammer’s 1975 introduction.

*Post updated 12/20/2022. We are thankful to Nick Thoburn for sending us images of the Unpopular/News From Everywhere edition.

Artie Cuts Out – by Arthur Bauman as told to Paul Wallis. Jaguar Press (1953).

Cover of the pamphlet

It struck us as odd that this important pamphlet has somehow never made its way online. A dear friend of ours who is doing research on the history of some of the Correspondence pamphlets recently acquired a scan and we have uploaded it to Libcom, here.

Artie Cuts Out was an early piece of inquiry and essay – what Raya Dunayevskaya called the “full fountain pen” method – by members of Correspondence. Nothing has been published about the authors. Kent Worcester, in his biography of James, when noting authorship, placed “Arthur Bauman” in quotes (p. 125). Harry Cleaver stated that Marty Glaberman was an author in the syllabus to his course on autonomist Marxism (here).

In an oral history interview with in the early 1990s with Jim Monk, Ron Baxter and Martin Deck (members of the New Tendency in Canada), Glaberman gives some further background to the author*:

In his introduction to Marxism for Our Times (p. xix), Glaberman contextualizes the pamphlet:

Jaguar Press appears to have been a one-off publisher ; we have no records of other publications from them and no other publications appear in OCLC.

Back cover of the pamphlet

Copies of the pamphlet rarely show up in the trade. Our copy is tight with tears to the edges of the back cover. We locate 9 copies held by libraries in OCLC, all in the United States.

*Updated 12/18/22. We are deeply indebted to Dylan Davis for sharing his copy of the Glaberman Oral History interview with us. The interview can be located at Columbia and in the Martin and Jessie Glaberman Papers at Wayne State.

Donald Katz, “Tribes: Italy’s Metropolitan Indians Signal the Violent Passage of a New Culture and the First Rebellion of ‘Irregulars’ in Modern Times,” Rolling Stone #252 (1977)

Image from the article

Italy’s ‘Metropolitan Indians’ (Indiani Metropolitani) have only more recently become the subject of English-language scholarship, notably barely getting a mention in Robert Lumley’s important volume States of Emergency: Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978. Patrick Cuninghame has written a very helpful piece contextualizing and discussing the group(s) (here), and there are other research projects in development. For example, Martina Caruso’s project (here), in which she notes: “In Rome, an extreme left-wing political faction, the Indiani Metropolitani (Metropolitan Indians) sought to imitate Native People‚Äôs dress and ways of life as a form of protest. With twenty-first century decolonial hindsight, the imitation of Native Cultures can be considered an unrefined form of cultural appropriation.”

Lumley does a does a good job contextualizing the faction, which we quote at length:

“The novelty the new [youth] movement sprang from its assertion of a ‘youth identity’, which had been repressed or displaced the student and worker politics of the late sixties and early seventies. But that identity was not perceived exclusively in terms of a youth experience or situation; rather it was taken to be emblematic of a situation typical of the modern metropolis. Youth was made to signify exclusion, marginality, and deviance. To be young and working class in a city like Milan meant living in the housing estates of the outskirts and making a living on the margins of the labour market. In official discourse, this situation was described as a ‘social problem’ and a ‘sickness’ that needed to be cured (once, that is, young people began to protest). But, in the language of the movement itself, the identity associated with deviance and marginality was claimed and appropriated by its participants. The ‘Metropolitan Indian’, who wore warpaint and uttered transgressive chants, did not ask to be ‘integrated’; s/he mocked Western ‘civilization’ and its values. The unemployed asked not for the right to work, but for the right to develop their individual capacities to enjoy themselves” (p. 296).

The instant article was published in 1977 in Rolling Stone. We couldn’t locate it online, so we scanned it. Much of the article provides a rather intense depiction of the years of lead, the strategy of tension in real-time, and a contemporaneous account geared toward an English-speaking audience. Emotionally, it is a difficult article to read. As an introduction to the Movement of ’77 and its context, and the Metropolitan Indians, it is recommended. We have uploaded it as a PDF to Libcom, here. The remaining pages are also posted below.

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

Doo Da! Forever / Monty Cantsin exhibits in NYC

Piece by Higgins at the exhibit.

The Van Der Plas Gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side is nearing the end of its Doo Da! Forever! exhibit of E.F. Higgins III work, and its 10 Ton Show group exhibit. We were finally able to get to the gallery this weekend to see it and were quite excited to do so.

The relation between autonomist Marxism and these showings may not be readily apparent, and for the most part the connection is peripheral, but there are some connecting threads.

Higgins, who died last year, was a legend in the world of mail art, in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals created an important international network (what would be called “the eternal network”) of autonomous artistic communication, with its heyday between the late 1970s and into the early 1990s (of course, mail art networks still exist). Mail art wasn’t a banner-waving form of politics, but the very act of subverting the entire gallery system to the extent these artists did, while crafting alternative networks of collective creativity, was an important example of circulating self-organizing and, perhaps, “self-valorization” or even “substruction” (to use a loose reading of p.m.’s concept in bolo’ bolo). It would be fundamentally wrong to make the argument that mail art, in its heyday, was a political project aimed at overcoming capitalism – it was not. However, the substance of mail art networks had important subverting and creating effects, and within the world of mail art there were some artists that incorporated autonomist and situationist concepts, including self-activity, class struggle, and detournement. (On the question of the possibilities for DIY to subvert capitalist relations, readers may be interested in this article we co-authored many years back, see p. 44-61).

In New York City some of the mail artists were also involved in what would be called the Rivington School. Higgins was one significant participant; so was Istvan Kantor – who began using the name Monty Cantsin in the late 1970. Cynthia Carr, in her stinging essay “The Triumph of Neoism. The Millionth Apartment Festival” (1988) explains:

“Monty Cantsin” – an “open pop star” – was a name, an identity, an idea invented in the late seventies by David Zack, a mail artists. Anyone could be Monty Cantsin. The name would then become famous, to the benefit of every Monty Cantsin. But the person most identified with the name is Istvan Kantor – construction worker, nurse, Canadian citizen, and native of Budapest. For this, Kantor/Cantsin has taken some neoflack in the neozine Smile (“Free to Shoplifters”). In a philosophy where nothing matters, it’s funny what does matter (p. 106).

Cantsin/Kantor is also the person often associated with “Neoism,” which as a provocative tradition (if it could be called that), which picks up inspiration from nihilism, situationist practice, punk, among other schools of activity and thought (notably, its participants would likely deny any of that). As a child, Kantor was a participant in the Hungarian Revolution and in a wide-ranging and important interview with Rafael Gonzalez he explained:

“Traumatic experiences are often the driving forces, the sources of motivation for making art. My most important traumatic experience was the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. I ran out from the air raid shelter where my whole family and other people stayed during the uprising, and in the street I pointed my toy gun to a convoy of Russian tanks. They stopped and a soldier jumped out from the leading vehicle and approached me. I ran back to the building and hid in a dark corner. The Russians surrounded the buildings and looked for me. In those times lots of kids threw MOLOTOV cocktails to Russian tanks and got killed. I only used a gesture but it was powerful enough to scare them. I was lucky enough that the janitor of the building could speak some Russian and calmed them down. And perhaps they were on some other mission anyway and so they left. People in the air raid shelter ritualistically broke my toy gun, that my grandfather made me, to small pieces. That was the first time that I confronted authorities at gunpoint using a gesture and it determined the rest of my life. I was 7 years old.”

The name “Monty Cantsin”, along with Karen Eliot and other ‘multiple identities’ would become commonly used among explicit participants in neoism in the mail art networks internationally (Stewart Home was another notable participant. Some of the works of these folks also show up in Cleaver’s listing of autonomist Marxist-related materials, here).

Another of Higgins’ works at the exhibit.

The exhibit at the Van Der Plas gallery occur on two floors – one at street level and one in the downstairs show room. The Higgins work is in the main gallery space, at street level, while the 10 Tons show is in the basement. Our main interest in the 10 Tons Show was Cantsin’s pieces. We include pictures of those here:

Istvan Kantor / Monty Cantsin piece at the exhibit
Istvan Kantor / Monty Cantsin piece at the exhibit
Istvan Kantor / Monty Cantsin piece at the exhibit

The gallery is on Orchard Street, right near Rivington Street, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The neighborhood is largely unrecognizable from what it looked like in the 1980s. The last remaining quasi-anarchist bookstore lost its space in the neighborhood due to rising rents, and there’s a CBD shop now in its place. The towers on Ludlow are overwhelming. One can’t help but wonder how an artist like Kantor experiences the area now. That curiosity aside, it was nice to see an exhibit of Higgins’ work, in particular. The gallery produced a small catalogue for the show and below is a picture of the opening pages, a picture of Kantor and Higgins and a short essay penned by Kantor about Higgins:

From the exhibit catalogue produced by the gallery

Broadside: “1 Mai 1977. Une Idee Paralyse Pendant 25 Minutes 500 Bureaucrates et 100.000 Connards” – Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde, 1977 [?]

Image of the broadside

A rare broadside produced by the French group Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde, early into their collective interventions, likely printed in 1977. In May of 1977 the group hung a banner reading “FETE DE L’Alienation !!” [Festival of Alienation! or Alienation Day!] over the May Day march in Paris, apparently stunning those who saw it. The piece is full of contempt for the CGT and the ritualized march.

A scan of the broadside

Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde, and the participants’ later project Os Cangaceiros, became known in France, and later in anarchist and post-situationist circles internationally, for their analyses and direct actions. (We have mentioned them briefly elsewhere on this blog).

There is little available about this broadside. The picture from the action was later reproduced as a postcard (see here), and a collection of Les Fossoyeurs du vieux monde’s writings can be found here. We locate no institutional holdings.

For english-language speakers we produce a rough translation below (with significant help from Deepl).

MAY 1, 1977. FOR 25 MINUTES AN IDEA PARALYZES 500 BUREAUCRATS AND 100,000 ASSHOLES.

The police union is once more defeated by the truth. While the sinister convoy was heading, as every year for 40 years, to its dreary destiny and the cappa maffiosi were at the level of the Hotel Sully, on Saint-Antoine Street, a banner 15 meters long, thanks to an ingenious mechanism, was instantly and majestically deployed at 12 meters above the heads of the union racketeers and their clients. It proudly snaps in the wind and strikes with astonishment the greedy tramps of the big men of the security service. It simply asserts, in letters 1 meter high, perfectly visible and perfectly readable by the 10 000 people massed from the Place Saint-Paul to the Place de la Bastille, the truth of this subhuman gathering: ALIENATION FESTIVAL!

Where the enemy thought he was invincible, we found the weakest point: the cegetistas [members of the CGT] big guns proved to be totally impassive in front of the idea’s omnipotence. An idea triumphs undisturbed with sobriety and elegance (for 800 francs including alcohol). For 25 minutes [1] it immobilizes the ridiculous march and generates a fantastic banner giving to the enemy a preview of its next rout. Following the derisory braying of the common programmers yelping their usual slogans, a stupefying silence of 1,000 meters long falls on the grotesque cohort. The cheerleaders stand still with one thigh in the air, disembodied [desemparees]. But above all, thanks to the clever set-up mechanism [2], which required the intervention of only one person, we were able to savor, together with the public and the scavengers themselves, the stupefied and furious discomfiture of our victims. Some of us had even pushed the concern of anonymity to the point of wearing infamous C.G.T. badges.

We witnessed a clear movement of sympathy, approval and cheerful chatter among the public on the sidewalk, which was not smothered by the union salute. A good number of amateur photographers equipped with splendid Japanese cameras shot all this time the infamy which hung over all this disorder.

We had a good laugh. That’s an understatement. Only we knew why we were there. We didn’t suffer any losses, not a single scratch, and all the pictures are good. Thank you for your help. Bureaucrats you got it in the ass and you will get it again. SOWETO. LISBON. DAKAR. ROME. See you next time!

[1] We have thus immobilized the union shit 25 times longer than the first emergency valve of the Ecofisk platform immobilized the black shit [likely referring to the massive oil blowout at the Ekofisk Bravo platform in April 1977].

[2] However, this was not yet expertise: if, in addition to the strong chain which ended the cable and which gave the union acrobat a lot of trouble, we had put black soap on the lamp post, the banner would have lasted 30 minutes longer and, in addition to the regular troops of the bureaucracy, all the leftist scum and small unions of everyday life would have come under our yoke.