Of Mead And Molotov

It is the first of May.

For Pagans, witches, and druids, this is Beltane, a celebration of the beginning of summer observed almost continuously in much of the European world for centuries.

For Marxists, Anarchists, and revolutionaries of all sorts, it is international workers’ day, a commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago which birthed a modern uprising against Capitalism and the police state.

Pagans and witches dance, light bonfires and drink mead today, or those of them who don’t have to go to work.

Anarchists and rebels march, throw bricks and molotovs today in hopes of making a world where no one must ever go to work.

For decades, the leaders and philosophers of both groups have eyed the other with suspicion, derision, and even hatred. Wiccan and Dianic elders cautioned their followers never to pursue much more than an esoteric path towards making the world they wished to see. Likewise, Communist and Anarchist theorists have belittled those in their groups who read Tarot or refused to believe that the natural world was little more than raw material substance exploited by the market.

Sure, there were always the heretics in each camp, the self-taught witches who burned incense at shrines the night before joining an anti-war march; the Latino Black Bloc members who’d give offerings to Santa Meuerta before masking up to stand against police oppression. Little could be spoken of these acts without facing ridicule or worse, but witches and anarchists aren’t know for caring much what others think.

Certainly, both sides had their reasons for suspicion. Many of the theorists who first iterated the political framework for anarchism and communism hailed from European countries, where the struggle against capitalism and authority was often slowed and even stopped by established Protestant and Catholic leaders deeply in the pockets of rulers, merchants, and landlords. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, spent much of his time writing primers and giving sermons to indoctrinate the poor into submission to their bosses in the name of submission to God. Martin Luther and John Calvin both ordered the massacre of rebellious peasants, and in the Americas, slavery and colonial subjugation derived its moral justification from opportunistic priests and ministers eager to partake in the spoils of Empire.

Such virulent opposition to religious thought obviously ran counter to the spiritual projects of modern Pagan thinkers. While some (including many of the founders of modern Druidry) where themselves leftists and sought to fight industrial capitalism through a return to nature veneration, they were not taken seriously by their non-Pagan leftist comrades. To make things more complicated, however, many of the founders of modern Pagan traditions (Gerald Gardner, for instance) were themselves deeply invested in the systems of exploitation which anarchists sought to end.

Another reason for Pagans to fear political engagement through their spirituality came from within. Germanic reconstructionist movements such as Heathenry and Asatru began as overtly political–and deeply racist–movements: as they became more and more popular within the military and with young white males, many elders likely saw that taking a leftist, anti-racist, and anti-imperialist position in public could cost them the apparent unity they needed to convince governments and non-Pagans to take them seriously.

While each side had their reasons for opposing the other, they each also ignored their own contradictions. Pagans of any sort who claim to venerate nature have no easy way to square these proclaimed beliefs with acceptance of capitalist and industrialist destruction of the planet. Druids who claim to worship forests yet do not fight the systems of profit which are destroying forests all over the world become hypocrites at best. Likewise, the anarchist or communist who claims to be anti-imperialist whilst insisting belief in spirits or gods is ‘primitive’ is merely replicating the same colonial subjugation of indigenous beliefs which European empires perfected.

Despite these obvious contradictions, few efforts were ever made to embody both realities, let alone plant seeds of conversation at the crossroads where Paganism and Anti-Capitalism intersect for a future forest in which both could thrive.

That is, until now.

Of Land and People, Tree and Fist

 

On the first of May, 2015, Gods&Radicals began, bearing a banner of tree and fist. We are not the first to hold aloft the standard of the land and the people against the soldiers of Profit and Oppression, only another front in the struggle enjoined everywhere on the earth. Holding in our hands the threads of anarchist, Marxist, anti-colonialist, druidic, feminist, occult, environmentalist, and esoteric thought, we began a dance around a center constantly plaiting, constantly weaving in fierce celebration of all that makes the world beautiful and all that we refuse to let be taken from us.

The forests are dying, but we join those who refuse to let them be killed. Water and air are being poisoned, but we hold in our own hands poison which can stop those who have done so. The poor and dispossessed of the world are ground in the works of Empire’s machines, but like the saboteurs of old we know how simple it can be to stop those gears from turning forever.

We know the power of mead and molotov, the beauty of ancient forest and shattered window, the sacred celebration of spiral dance and protest march. We speak in the quiet whispers of conspiracy and graveyard, swim in the currents of tumultuous ocean and political dissent, read the future in the bones of animals and the pale faces of politicians.

We know our human and non-human comrades die daily on the bloody altars of finance and war, and we also know we are no comrades to them at all if we do not rise up with sharpened blades and whetted minds against the priest and police who preside over such foul sacrifice.

It is the first of May. Beltane to some, a day a resistance to others, and both to us.

May the scent of hawthorne blossom and tear gas be the incense we offer to the earth, the laughter of children around maypoles and the chants against police be the melodies which wake the summer, may the light from burning bonfires and barricades greet the strengthening sun, and may this be the Beltane upon which we look back and smile, remembering what new world we woke with our endless dance.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is the managing editor and a co-founder of Gods&Radicals. He is a poet, a writer, a theorist, and a pretty decent chef. He can be supported on Patreon, and his other work can be found at Paganarch, and shirtless selfies occasionally seen on his FB. and also his Instagram

“everything breathes the revolutionary spirit”

The following piece is taken from A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here.

“The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices
you are throttling today.”

August Spies

November 11th 1887. 4 men are hanged in Chicago. August Spies (pronounced owgust shpees), Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel.

All of the men die stoically, some defiantly. The state makes sure they die slowly, noosed and then strangled. No breaking of necks for a humane exit for them.

Another 2 men are serving life in prison. Samuel Fielden and Michael Schwab (pronounced shvab). 1 man, 15 years. Oscar Neebe.

Another has committed suicide in his cell, dying a slow death from exploding dynamite in his mouth. Louis Lingg.

All this for what heinous crime? For being visible in a movement for an 8-hour working day…

In the late 18th century, many Europeans flocked to the United States seeking work in the land of opportunity. What they found was that pay and conditions were worse than back home. Consequently, they organised. Some agitated. Unions, socialists and anarchists built an uneasy alliance. There were many issues but all came together in the movement for an 8 hour day in a time where 14 to 18-hour days were not uncommon. They called for balance, “8 hours for work – 8 for rest – and 8 for what we will”.

On May 4th, 1886, a rally was convened as a response to several workers’ deaths during a strike at the hands of the Police the previous day. It was a subdued affair, by the more honest accounts, that anywhere between 600-3,000 attended. Many had left by 10:30p.m., when the Police arrived in force and demanded that the crowd disperse. They were, with the speakers descending from the wagon, when a bomb was thrown killing 7 Policeman, 1 outright, 6 eventually. Later thought to be a provocateur posing as an anarchist, the culprit was never caught, nor perhaps even sought that hard. After this, gunfire scattered the square, leaving a further 60 Police officers wounded. Nobody knows how many demonstrators were either dead or wounded as they were too afraid to get official help and found it where they could. At the time rumours started that the demonstrators opened fire first. However, later anonymous reports pointed to Police fire only, who, in the resulting chaos were said to have “emptied” the contents of their revolvers on each other.

In the resulting clampdown many were arrested, particularly anarchists, with most of these associated with the radical German language workers’ paper the Arbeiter Zietung. 8 were tried. Long-time activist Albert Parsons, whose wife was deemed “more dangerous than a thousand rioters”, initially escaped arrest but walked into the courtroom on the day of the trial start to stand in solidarity with the others.

The trial was a blatant set up from start to finish, but public opinion was paranoid and strong. Even 7 years later, a pardon from Governor Altgeld, almost stating this, made him the most hated man in the U.S. for quite some time. The state and mainstream press brought the full weight of their might to bear on the men. Even before the rally the press shouted that Spies and Parsons should be made examples of, were there to be any trouble. Afterwards, they screamed, “Now it is blood” and continued to whip up frenzied copy for the remainder of the proceedings. It seems that organising is one thing, but combined with agitating (i.e. getting people to think critically or question authority) sends the establishment into turmoil. For this is where revolutions come from.

Judge Gary was openly hostile to the men and the jury rigged, most of whom also openly stated their prejudice against the defendants. The Police had long hated the men, who had not held back in their written and spoken exposure of Police corruption and brutality. Spies had been told by friends to watch his back as they had heard warnings of “getting even” after Spies had (unsuccessfully) tried to prosecute a Policeman for rape of a servant girl in custody. Neebe further accused them in his speech to the court and stood firm when Police Captain Schaak laughed at his words, saying that the Captain was an anarchist in the worst sense of the word. All through the case, the defendants were very articulate in their ideas on political anarchy and socialism, as opposed to capitalists, who they charged operated to the same violent anarchy that they were accused of. This, of course, was the real charge, that the men were picked out for being leaders and should be made examples of to “save our institutions, our society.” The prosecutor even said at one point, “Anarchy is on trial”.

On finding there was no evidence to prosecute for murder, as most of the men were not even present when the bomb was thrown, the judge swiftly changed the charge to one of conspiracy to incite the murders. Some had made bombs or had weapons, but the trial really centred on their written and spoken views on the sometimes legitimate use of violence. Eventually (surprise!), he found that their guilt to this equated to their guilt for murder and sentenced 1 to life in prison and 7 to death. Spies wryly noted that the principle of “a life for a life” was in action, relating to the 7 Police who lost their lives.

All the men spoke to the court nearing the end of the trial in October 1886 (the speeches in the records are well worth reading1). They are passionate, eloquent, and unyielding in their defence of themselves and their beliefs. They do not advocate violence at any cost, but they also do not rule it out either. They do not hold back their accusations levelled at the state and its agents and at capitalism generally. The phrase “speaking truth to power” was never so apt. By all accounts Samuel Fielden wowed the crowd with his oratory skill, ironically learnt as a Methodist preacher in Lancashire in the U.K. Albert Parsons spoke for a total of 8 hours over 2 days.

It is, however, August Spies’ words that thrill me. In his speech, Spies is insistent and clever. He fiercely and fearlessly picks apart the arguments of his accusers. He uses natural phenomena to illustrate his point that anarchy and revolution are natural states. That a force can be brought to try to push us down but this can never stop us. We rise. We grow. No-one can stop the inevitable growth of the land, its people, and the forces that we contain. Change is the only constant and revolution is ever present in all beings’ spirit and lungs.

He uses all the elements in his arguments:

Earth and air:

“Revolutions are no more made than earthquakes and cyclones. Revolutions are the effect of certain causes and conditions… If anyone is to be blamed for the coming revolution it is the ruling class who steadily refused to make concessions as reforms became necessary; who maintain that they can call a halt to progress, and dictate a stand-still to the eternal forces, of which they themselves are but the whimsical creation.”

Water:

“You, in your blindness, think you can stop the tidal wave of civilization and human emancipation by placing a few policemen, a few Gatling guns, and some regiments of militia on the shore. You think you can frighten the rising waves back into the unfathomable depths, whence they have arisen, by erecting a few gallows in the perspective.”

The fires of Beltane in a statement of perfect defiance:

“If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement—the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery… if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here we will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out. The ground is on fire upon which you stand.”

August_Spies_portraitSpies sets out a path but also a challenge to us all. This Beltane, where are you speaking truth to power despite the consequences? Where do you set your fires? How will you blaze up?

I have used Spies’ words in the following poem about Beltane, rising up, and revolutions. It is dedicated to him and all the Haymarket martyrs, in memory of whom International May Day is now internationally observed (the first strikes for the 8-hour day were held on May 1st, 1886). I have also used a phrase from Dylan Thomas’ poem, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” because, really, no other term will do…

“everything breathes the revolutionary spirit”

for august spies

now is our time, we rise, we grow,
those voices strangled on mayday,
silent resolve most powerful
of bright green emancipation.
we force through, we a tidal wave,
come summer, come the early spring
that we may swell to our full height
to die, hunker over winter,
we the “green fuse” that refuses.

Nina George

Nina George is a social activist and writer living in Lancashire in North West England. She has worked on repairing the damage done by men who are abusive towards women for over 20 years. She agitates for revolution whenever she can.

 

This piece, and many others, is available in A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire Is Here. Here’s how to order.

The Fire is Here

 

A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here will be released very soon.

Here is the introduction, written by editor and poet Lorna Smithers.

Information on ordering is available below.


I.

‘I hunted out and stored in fennel stalk the stolen source of fire that has proved a teacher to mortals in every art and a means to mighty ends. Such is the offence for which I pay the penalty, riveted in fetters beneath the open sky.’
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

‘Each of them has the care of the fire for a single night in turn, and, on the evening before the twentieth night, the last nun, having heaped wood upon the fire, says, “Brigit, take charge of your own fire ; for this night belongs to you.”’
Gerald of Wales, The Topography of Ireland

A stolen fire passed down by generations.

We are the flame-keepers of a questionable heritage.

In many cultures fire is taken from the gods and gifted to mankind by a trickster, who suffers for their hubris, or is kept alive by a group of virgins serving a goddess. These are the costs and vetoes of fire.

Fire, of itself, is amoral. It lights and heats our homes. It burns in the furnaces of factories and power stations and burns them down. It inspires revolutions and burns martyrs. It burned the victims of the Holocaust.

The uses we make of fire are our responsibility. When we look back at its misuses we are suffocated by horror, fettered by sky gods as eagles descend to peck upon our guilty livers.

However, we remember Prometheus was unbound. The unfastening of fetters is a Herculean task. By learning to listen to voices consigned to the flames, walking through fire and awakening to uncomfortable truths, gifting back to the gods (“fire… belongs to you”) we can become good flame-keepers.

II.

‘Svasud is the name of the father of Summer. He is a man so content that from his name comes the expression ‘it is svaslight’ referring to what is pleasant. The father of Winter is alternately called Vindloni or Vindsval (Wind Chill). His is the son of Vasad (Damp Cold). These are cruel and cold-hearted kinsmen and Winter takes its nature from them.’
Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda

‘there was to be battle between Gwyn and Gwythyr every May Day until Judgement Day, and the one that triumphed on Judgement Day would take the maiden.’
Sioned Davies, The Mabinogion

Eternal Summer is founded on the death of Winter.

For thousands of years we have been stealing fuel for our fire from the underworld: the bones and breath of dead worlds.

The smog-blackened chimneys of mill towns, the concrete towers of coal-fired power stations, a million million vehicles chugging on oil have together contributed to the asphyxiating build-up of gases that may postpone the next Ice Age.

Glaciers are calving. Sea levels rising. Last winter in northern England heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks, washing away venerable old trees and an historic pub, flooding towns and cities and leaving hundreds of people bereft of belongings. This summer is set to be the hottest on record again.

The dialectic between summer and winter is represented by the battle between two gods: Summer and Winter Kings, and their courtship of the sovereign goddess of the land.

On May Day Summer’s King wins and takes the goddess’ hand in sacred marriage. Winter’s King dies and retreats. He returns for his beloved at summer’s end. But for how long?

If either King keeps her forever it will bring about the end of the world.

III.

‘Whoever until this day emerges victorious, marches in the triumphal procession in which today’s rulers tread over those who are sprawled underfoot. The spoils are, as was ever the case, carried along in the triumphal procession. They are known as the cultural heritage. In the historical materialist they have to reckon with a distanced observer. For what he surveys as the cultural heritage is part and parcel of a lineage which he cannot contemplate without horror.’
Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

 

‘It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.’
Ursula Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Our heritage is as questionable as the stolen fire in which it was forged.

It has taken two devastating world wars, and the dedicated effort of thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, to put into question the ideal of progress which drove the industrial revolution and gave rise to dehumanising and militant right and left-wing ideologies.

Benjamin died of an overdose fleeing the Nazis at Portbou. His Theses on the Philosophy of History were passed on to his colleague, Theodor Adorno, by Hannah Arendt. Another manuscript, which some scholars have speculated may have been his completed Arcades Project, was forever lost.

The transmission of our heritage and connection with our ancestors are fragile and fraught with danger. They run beyond paganism into interconnectedness with all humanity.

When we look into the flames of a fire we see what collectively we share with the rest of the world: a shared history, a shared responsibility.

The shadow cast by that fire will never go out.

It reminds us as pagans, magic-workers, devotees of our gods, of the need to sustain the fire of love for each other and our seared earth.

On May Eve we gather around the fire in love. We hold hands in the darkness.

We are flame-keepers of a stolen fire brought at great cost.

The fire is here.

Use it wisely.

 

The Fire Is Here is the work of 26 writers, 5 artists and 2 photographers. The narrative flickered into life as the contributions arranged themselves into a tapestry bound together by summer’s burning thread. Taking the form of a Beltane / May Day rite it crackled and roared.

The first section IGNITEs the Bel fire and calls in the revolutionary spirit. THE SICKNESS AND THE MEDICINE forms a journey of purification where the ills of capitalism are exposed and cures are found at its ailing core. SOVEREIGNTY AND THE TRIALS OF LOVE focuses on relationship with the land, gods, and each other and gives voice to the tribulations and joys of love. The spirits of the greenwood offer A FOREST ALLEGIANCE and lead to the storytellers’ grove. With fire in our heads we confront our social and political situation and depart with revolutionary ancestors leaving FOOTSTEPS IN THE EMBERS.

The title The Fire Is Here is borrowed from the title of an inspired piece in the journal by Heathen Chinese. My introduction was born from meditating on Li Pallas’ stunning cover art. The layout and design have been completed by Li. I was thrilled when Emma Restall Orr agreed to write the foreword and more so when I read her thought-provoking words.

It has been a pleasure and honour to bring together these thoughts and visions as an act of service to the authors and their lands and deities. To witness pagans from all paths coming together in resistance to capitalism ‘to create the world we want now’(1).

As a way of introducing the individual pieces, as an awenydd and poet, I have chosen to compose a cento. This is a poetic form crafted from the words of others. For the artworks I have used a combination of titles and personal impressions.

These words are a spellbreaking,
a subterranean fire.
In the valley of sickness
we are healed by what can end us
six hundred feet deep
raise the tainted cup
in the soul of every man.
Only connect! A bond in blood.
We are living on Turtle Island.
The ancient new seductive healing sound
clothed in enchantment
myth and folklore
addresses the False Kings.
The Mother of the Gods answers
“My body is not acreage
savage, immoral, uncivilised, wild,
Earth Mound Mother, Sustain-her of Life.
Come voice yourselves
from tree heart to tree top
in revolutionary magic
shake up the sanity of everyday life
in the Holy Grove
pen roaring and bloody words
trembling and flooded with moonlight.
Tell stories in the summertime.
Hold close the fire until it burns your mind.”
The magic-wielders are waking up.
Soulfood for imagination
the fire is already here.
The dead wait for us who are willing to cross
then heal. Then build. Then sing.

***

As Summer’s King triumphs I go to mourn the death of my god.
May the gifts of this journal fire your inspiration
and guide you through the wakening wood.


Lorna Smithers

Lorna Smithers profile picLorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd based in Lancashire. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands and editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire Is Here. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist and is a contributor to Awen ac Awenydd and Dun Brython.

 


Click here to order A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here.

Our first issue, A Beautiful Resistance: Everything We Already Are is also available.  The digital edition is now only $6 US

Review: The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day

Karl Marx and Fredrich Engles claimed, in The Communist Manifesto, that the history of all societies has been that of class struggle.  In a later edition, however, Engels inserted the following footnote:

“That is, all written history.”

What led to that clarification? Specifically, the discovery by anthropologists that pre-literate societies in Russia and elsewhere had held land in common. While all written histories of the world were founding narratives for the right-to-rule of the upper classes, unwritten histories told a different tale: stories not of hierarchies and class, of propertied rulers and priests, but of ways of being where property belonged to everyone and no-one.

In the footnote, Engels adds:

“with the dissolution of the primeval communities, society begins to be differentiated into separate and finally antagonistic classes.”

It’s tempting  to call these primeval societies ‘pagan’ and perhaps we should.  As Oscar Wilde suggested, the best way to overcome a temptation is to give in to it.  Besides, much of modern Paganism draws from the myths and relationality of less hierarchical societies, borrowing from the later-recorded oral histories of gods and spirits–with very liberal applications of imagination and dreaming—to create a New/Old way of being.

Likewise, Paganism can be said to be reaction to Civilisation, or at least a certain understanding of it. The alienation of modern workplaces, the vapidity of technological distraction, and the apparent emptyness and Authoritarian nature of major religious forms compel many of us to look elsewhere for our meaning.  For most of us, Paganism as we currently create it provides exactly that alternative.

If our desire to live according to Pagan forms of being is compelled by more than mere dissatisfaction with what’s on offer from the marketplace, churches, malls, televisions, cubicles and burger stands–that is, if it isn’t only a matter of consumer preference, but actually a resistance to those things—then no day embodies that desire, that compulsion, that celebration of the body and the natural world like Beltane, or May Day

But May Day doesn’t just belong to Pagans. While perhaps hundreds of thousands celebrate Beltane, many millions more in cities across the world have enacted a different sort of ritual, the revolt of worker against boss, renter against landlord, marcher against cop, of world-time against clock-time.

Are these May Days so different?

History From Below

Ask that question to Peter Linebaugh, and one imagines he would laugh, and then give you some very wild–and dazzling–history lessons.

In The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day, a new collection of his essays published by PM Press, Peter Linebaugh explores both threads of May Day, the Pagan threads (what he calls “The Green”) and the anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist threads (“The Red”).

The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day is a collection of 11 essays, each written about and for May Day (and, as he cheerfully notes in the introductory essay, sometimes written ‘the night before’ the occasion) which dance and weave into each other like the ribbons of a maypole.

Linebaugh doesn’t tell history in lines, and that’s a good thing. Linear history is the story of the machine-age, the mechanistic world of the factory and the skyscraper, the narrative of progress and the line-up to the gas chambers. Such a history wheels along, unstoppable along iron tracks past the present. Through its windows we might catch a glimpse of the ‘great men’ of earlier times, the generals and warlords, men of religion, men of industry, men of science; if, that is, the black smudge of coal and petrol smoke does not obscure our view.

Peter Linebaugh doesn’t tell the story of those people, he tells ours, the ‘History from Below,” and he recounts it not in lines but in webs, nets, drawing threads and throwing cables across vast distances to connect the people who actually live history, rather than watch it parade by.

For Linebaugh, the worker and the witch, the coal miner in Appalachia and the prisoner in London, the dead Sioux and the Italian anarchist, the daughter of an African slave and the German philosopher are all part of the same dance, each holding a coloured ribbon about the pole which unites us.

The Dance of the Red & The Revolt of the Green

The Green of Beltane and the Red of May Day are interwoven through their shared acts of resistance against Authority and the demands of the bosses. As he explains in the title essay (originally written as a tract in 1986):

Green is a relationship to the earth and what grows therefrom. Red is a relationship to other people and the blood spilt there among. Green designates life with only necessary labor; Red designates death with surplus labor. Green is natural appropriation; Red is social expropriation. Green is husbandry and nurturance; Red is proletarianization and prostitution. Green is useful activity; Red is useless toil. Green is creation of desire; Red is class struggle. May Day is both.

(p.11)

The essay opens with a history of the Green, the pagan and irreligious celebrations from which most modern witches and pagans reconstruct the holiday. That it needed to be reconstructed at all further entwines the red and green threads together:

The farmers, workers, and child bearers (laborers) of the Middle Ages had hundreds of holy days which preserved the May Green, despite the attack on peasants and witches. Despite the complexities, whether May Day was observed by sacred or profane ritual, by pagan or Christian, by magic or not, by straights or gays, by gentled or calloused hands, it was always a celebration of all that is free and life-giving in the world. That is the Green side of the story. Whatever it was, it was not a time to work.

 

Therefore, it was attacked by the authorities. The repression had begun with the burning of women and it continued in the 16th century when America was “discovered,” the slave trade was begun, and nation-states and capitalism was formed.
(p.14)

 

As Authority and the needs of Capitalists sought to form humans into machine-workers, festival days during which no work was to be done (as he points out, hundreds, and all of them sacred) became sites of battle. The celebration of May Day was banned, but as Linebaugh shows, this only made the celebrations more anti-authoritarian. In England, the May Day games were thereafter called the “Robin Hood Games” by the peasants, initiating the ‘Red’ current.

Of course, May Day is better known to the world not as an ancient European tradition, but a day of mass strikes, revolts, and marches to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago. The events that day came about as part of a workers movement to reduce the length of the workday to 8 hours and to protest State repression and murder of labor activists. For Linebaugh, this is both the Red thread (leftist organisation against Capital) and the Green thread (the demands of the people for time to actually live life, rather than toil).

The Great Tapestry of Resistance

Other essays in the collection explore more of the modern class struggle centered on May Day. His essay X²: May Day In Light of Waco and LA explores the relationship between class struggle and social justice through the lens of Exploitation and Expropriation (the source of the X²).

1992 saw the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, during which 55 people were killed, thousands of people injured, and millions of dollars of property destroyed after a jury found the police officers who had severely beaten Rodney King not guilty of excessive force.

A common trick of Authority and the media is to de-legitimize the political anger in such uprisings, particularly amongst Black folk. Because much of the damage to business occurred not to white-owned establishments but to Asian-owned shops, the Rodney King Riots were written off as blind rage or even racist.

But Linebaugh sees in these events (which occurred during the few days before and few days after May Day that year) the same repeating form which led to the Evil May Day Riots in 1517. Artisans in London attacked foreign merchants and bankers who had been brought in by the King to undercut wages and destroy the organising power of the guilds.  Manipulating immigration policy has always been a trick of the powerful against the lower classes.

It’s in such places that Linebaugh’s historical narrative becomes most powerful and truly international.  Linebaugh is particularly adept at showing the relationship between events in Europe and events in North America, a transatlanticism unfortunately rare in most histories.

Europe and North America are not the only continents where Linebaugh finds the spirit of May Day. Africa, the Middle East, and Asia all birth the repeating form of resistance. The threads intertwine fast and taut: anti-colonial struggle in Kenya connects to the Black Panthers, the struggle for the commons in Indonesia to student movements in the United States, striking soldiers from England to Ghandi and displaced Arabs, and eastern European vampire myths connect to privatisation and austerity moves in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

By the final essay (his retirement speech from the University of Toledo), the world of the Red and Green, the histories from below, have become a great tapestry of resistance which, like the title of the book, is True, Wonderful, Authentic….and Incomplete.

Like his other works, Peter Linebaugh leaves you dazzled, full of great optimism and the sense that the world is much smaller and an end to Capital much closer than you ever dared hope. But just as quickly, the stories end, the tapestry seems to fade away and you are left holding the colored cords, unsure what comes next.

His history of May Day is indeed incomplete. There are many, many more May Days to write about, including the one approaching. Will the Green and Red finally win this time? Will they twine together, braiding with all the other colors of the earth’s fecund life? The Black threads are there too, as are the Asian, the First Nations (see particularly his earlier work on Tecumseh in Stop, Thief!.) the Arab and the white, great ribbons all suspended from the top of a great tree.

Will we dance the world Peter Linebaugh shows us into existence around that pole this year? Or will it be the next? Either way, in his final lines Linebaugh invites us to that dance:

We have the world to gain, the earth to recuperate. M’Aidez! M’Aidez!


Incomplete True Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day can be ordered direct through PM Press. Also recommended is his essay Ned Ludd and Queen Mab: Machine-Breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons of 1811–12″


 

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd AuthorRhyd is a writer, theorist, Anarchist, Marxist, and Pagan living in a city by the Salish Sea in Occupied Duwamish Territory. He laughs when he’s happy, cries when he’s sad, growls when he’s thinking, and does all those things when he’s in love. He’s the co-founder and Managing Editor of Gods&Radicals, also writes at Paganarch, and can be supported on Patreon.


 

Speaking of May Day, the second issue of the Gods&Radicals Journal A Beautiful Resistance, “We Bring The Fire” is due for release soon. There’s still time to pre-order or subscribe!

 

We Are All in the Gutter, But Some Of Us are Looking At The Stars

dalai lama
The Dalai Lama. An avowed Marxist and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Not a Pagan; however, supportive of the indigenous Bön religion. Criticized extensively by hard-line Buddhists and also the Totalitarian Chinese government for ‘politicizing’ Buddhism. Image CC by 2.0, Christopher Michel

Happy Beltane!

Gods&Radicals is now a daily site and, on 1 May, was voted in as a non-profit publishing organization with a board and Rhyd Wildermuth as Managing Editor.  Once application for non-profit status is complete, we’ll have the full information listed on the site.

Needless to say, we’re excited!

This Week

Monday: Sean Donahue on Eros and Resistance

Tuesday: Michael Strojan with The Light of Heresy

Wednesday: Johnny Rapture’s “Ritual Theory, Rally Practice”

Thursday: A second piece by Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan

Friday: Lia Hunter’s first essay for Gods&Radicals, “The Enchanted”

Satyrday: Jennifer Lawrence’s first essay on poverty and offerings.

Links

Quite a bit happened this week, too much for us to keep up with.  Friday was Beltane, and celebrated with both ritual and protest across much of the world.  For more history regarding the links between Beltane and May Day, we recommend this essay.

Several fantastic pieces about Beltane were published this week.  We recommend:

Also, Lisha Sterling’s piece on Spiritual Sovereignty at A Sense of Place is a great read.

And you may find Sunday’s piece at The Wild Hunt by the editor of Gods&Radicals readable, too.

Glossary

 Hegemony

A system of government in which the powerless internalize the logic and demands of the powerful.

In strict political terms, Hegemony described the process by which nations became indirect colonial subjects of a Hegemonic power, policing their own actions and overtly following the dominant power’s political goals to avoid being conquered.

The term also describes the psychological, social, and physical behaviors of conquered subjects of Capital.  No direct rule or threat of force is required for workers to show up to work on time, and obedience to laws (just or unjust) stems not from consent to those laws, but internalized fear of reprisals.

Hegemony explains, also, how we re-inforce discipline in each other, ‘policing’ the behavior of individuals within a community.  For instance, rioting and looting as part of a political manifestation is often reported, criticized, and even punished by otherwise sympathetic observers because of internalized fear-of-reprisals.  Likewise, the barista who gives away coffee for free may be reported by a fellow worker, or a political agitator may be turned-in or actively silenced by their community.

Quote

“Somewhere in the industrial age, objects shut up because their creation had become so remote and intricate a process that it was no longer readily knowable.  Or they were silenced, because the pleasures of abundance that all the cheap goods offered were available only if they were mute about the scarcity and loss that lay behind their creation.”  -Rebecca Solnit