By Sending Them Letters
Is not indolence the pleasure of spending the morning in bed?
– D.A. (editor of Letters)
Letters Journal IV, the self-styled* “anti-political communist journal” coming out of Kentucky is a beautiful thing and that isn’t even to talk about the writing (which is also lovely). While I have never read the journal before, other than some small things on the Internet, I was excited to read it because this issue focuses on the topics of friendship, love, and fate (among other things). It kind of reminds me of another infamous journal that I’ve really liked lately because of this focus on relationships (and no, I’m not talking about New York City and Santa Cruz). It may seem a little cheeky, but I feel like these are important topics to discuss, and honestly they are probably easier to understand than pro-revolutionary theory (because I’m still not exactly sure I know what that is, but I want to).
What is the journal? In their own simple words:
With this journal we wish to better understand and analyze capitalism and its critics through the distorting lens of a rigorous anti-political experimentation and soul searching. We are not the expression of a political party or organization and seeks no adherents or official line, though we are open to offers of financial patronage. We are not afraid of paradox. Our aim is to bring maximum disorder to habitual perspectives.
Sounds good enough to me, the soul searching is never ending.
Recently, some body or bodies encompassing Letters Journal went on a little summer tour, after all what else does one do during the summer when there is no CrimethInc. convergence? Anyways, there was a lot of water coloring happening and nothing doing going on plus some traveling, that neither here nor there. Before the tour the journal solicited a challenge to anyone to make a video about why or why not they are coming. One response, entitled Waiting for Letters Journal isn’t that much of a thriller and reminds me of some of the denser moments when reading the journal (snooze). But, I guess it can’t all be cherries and sugar now can it? [answer: not for communists at least]
The other video response entitled Letters Journal – Alfonso 1970 – Autonomia Italia is simply wonderful. This video deserves a review of it’s own, and I’m not sure if it is really possible to comment on it, other than simply laughing and watching it a couple of times. An anonymous spectator said this:
While simultaneously flashing The Coming Insurrection and Politics is Not a Banana I thought I also heard the phrase “Letters Journal” uttered like the infamous yell of “Mortal Kombat” (but, then again, maybe not).
Here is my one big critique of the journal – it is beautiful and lovely, but really difficult to understand at times. For hours last night, I read the entire journal and I came away from parts thinking that I have no clue about anything I just read, almost like it was in another language. Maybe, this is just my reading – but, I feel like part of it is because in order to understand Letters one has to be versed in a very specific set of other letters. For example, when I was reading the letter from Frere Dupont to Red Hughes I was totally lost, and while it is important to take your zen with your anarchy – I feel like I would have to read all of the archives at
Love Your Destiny?
We were friends and have become estranged. But this was right… That we have to become estranged is the law above us; by the same token we should also become more venerable for each other – and the memory of our former friendship more sacred. There is probably a tremendous but invisible stellar orbit in which our very different ways and goals may be included as small parts of this path; let us rise up to this thought. But our life is too short and our power of vision too small for us to be more than friends in the sense of this sublime possibility! – Let us then believe in our star friendship even if we should be compelled to be earth enemies.
– Nietzsche – Star Friendship, The Gay Science (quote also printed in the journal)
The friendship of Letters begins. And, as a writer says it lasts for three weeks of Dionysus-esce wine and cigarettes. Coming from Letters which in a way seems to have come out of the vegan straight-edge zine Total Destruction, this is something. But, of course the editor doesn’t have to agree with everything, now do they? Soon, the three weeks ended, and they went separate ways – attempting to write letters the old fashion way. This slowly died, but the memory lives on. For some reason, this may sound a bit sad, but I love this. It is like learning to fall for something, whether it be in love, into a spell, or however you want to think about it and then just losing it. Kind of mysterious.
The journal talks a lot about things that used to exist, often abstractly it seemed, and from this we can mention the lost art of letter writing. After all, who writes real letters anymore? Although, in some ways I think this is too obvious of a loaded question, that has been asked and answered too many times before. But, let take a look at one of the greatest examples of letter writing ever to grace the pages of a book:
If I hadn’t been exchanging letters with you for the past months, I would have reacted to those headlines the same way they did. And I realized there’s no such entity as a human species, or rather that it doesn’t recognize itself as such; it possesses no faculty of community. Either it never had such a faculty or it lost it. The beings I was among, including me, were not species-beings but closed compartments. Maybe what we’ve just experienced on both sides of the world shows that the faculty of species-being is something still to be created, and that it’s not the abstract “community” I’ve always envisioned but something very concrete, as concrete as Mirna’s “excursions.” Maybe it’s nothing but the willingness to touch, feel, look at and listen to each other.
– Sophie [you say Sophia], in Letters of Insurgents
In another text regarding friendship, Le Garcon Dupont signs with love while earlier writing that “friendship and love do not exist in modern times.” It kind of feels like the jokes on us. It goes on to mention the bourgeois philosophizing of comparing Santa Clause and love, in other words – comparing two things that you can’t prove actually exist. But, I mean how can you actually compare Santa Clause and love? They are on two completely different scales. I guess that is why I appreciate the fact that Letters argues that this phrase is just bourgeois philosophizing. Though, it seems almost too seductive to not believe in love or argue/statements for it being only real in the past. How do you know? Why does it have to be sooo set in stone? Although, the tone of fun or death is appreciated – is a life without love one worth living? Didn’t Albert Camus say something like the greatest question is whether to kill yourself or no… He doesn’t sound like a very fun person to have at parties.
Words Marx the Spot
The meaning of a phrase can more accurately be deduced by its use rather that its origin. For example, the use, and thus, the meaning, of the statement “cisgendered straight white male” is the replacing, avoiding, and disrupting of argument.”
Yes! What is it about being so politically correct, if you will, or whatever it is, that saying this out loud just makes you want to blow chunks? For some reason, I’m reminded on the 2009 CrimethInc. Convergence in Pittsburgh and some comments that get made surrounding Bash Back! (RIP).
There is another quote that I really like about language and the subjects of teaching vs. being a student:
To teach is to open oneself to those demands and to seek the language to meet them. Or, to teach is to be contaminated with the demands of the student and to find that the threshold between the teacher and the student (between teaching and learning) is not a boundary but an open space of contamination, that we learn in teaching and teach in learning by maintaining the roles and rituals of teacher and student. (So in some ways the concept of teacher and student are interchangeable [meaningless?] but are only interchangeable, in this case, in our respecting the meaning and structure of teacher and student.)
This reminds me a lot of Paulo Freire. Students and teachers, teachers and students are one and the same. This seems kind of like an obvious statement, but is this really how it is? Schooling and education in North America today is crazy in a lot of ways and some thoughts on an experienced that many of us have lived is appreciated.
Later on in the journal one comes across, The Parallax Few, and this quote stood out for me:
Most human beings do not reflect upon what they are responsible for, most do not even arrive at the stage of having to forgive themselves and get on with life – we are “hard programmed” to evade the question of our involvement in unacceptable events, and therefore we also habitually evade the question of change.
Holding yourself responsible. But, are we really hard programed for not holding ourselves responsible? It feels more like a condition to me. Noam Chomsky may have said sometime during the 1970s that we are hard programmed for language. Is responsibility also like an innate ability? Or is it like that band said famously, some years ago – “Responsibility… FUCK THAT!”
And Finally… the Literary Supplement
Immediately, I noticed the mysterious torn out pages at beginning and end of the little hand held supplement. Is this just my copy or are the pages going to turn up with the missing Days of War, Nights of Love page somewhere in CrimethInc. desert underground headquarters? The supplement is a very nice touch though. I really haven’t read all of it yet, so I can’t really comment – but what I’ve looked through so far is interesting.
There is an interview which touches on some ideas regarding the translation of different language. Creating a good translation is difficult, but when done appropriately it is amazing. There are so many languages that we can probably never learn, but having excellent translations is something worth while. It is also something that should happen more often.
On that note, the journal has been publishing chapters of The Unseen by Nanni Balestrini each issue. I started reading it, but the abstractness and teetering incoherence of it made me pause. While this may have been the writers intention, to be experimental, like the writing of whatever and things that don’t make sense, I just didn’t like it. Perhaps, one just needs to be in a more Neoavanguardia frame of mind. Or maybe the translation is just that bad?
Letters Journal can be purchased from Little Black Cart(LBC) because supposedly they have around 1,000 copies and if only 100 people buy a copy, then LBC will get angry and burn them, sparking Libertian Communists worldwide to revolt against the anthropomorphization of books.
You can also read the Wikipedia page about Letters Journal if you’re curious for some more background knowledge. There are also some funny comments from a forum on Libcom (funny in a sad kind of way, because most of the posters just seem like jerks).
The journal can be contacted here:
838 E. High St. #115
Lexington, KY 40502
‘Cause Baby I am a Communist? (no final thoughts here)
*authors notes: don’t you just love the term “self-styled” or would you rather me use “self-proclaimed” like Tom Gabel (of Against Me!)? Seriously, do we have to be serious all the time, even when writing a review? Is this what Letters tells us? After all, the journal has explicitly stated that they are not anarchists, but rather some sort of “obscurantist communist!” [actually CrimethInc. said that… but, oh well, this is communism baby!] Sorry if this review isn’t serious enough, there will be more serious reviews coming seriously soon. besitos!