Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Luigi Galleani: The Most Dangerous Anarchist In America

This is a book review of Luigi Galleani: the Most Dangerous Anarchist In America by Antonio Senta (AK Press, 2019) that appears in Fifth Estate #406, Spring, 2020.

Sacco and Vanzetti, the Italian-American anarchists executed in Massachusetts in 1927 for a robbery and murder they probably had nothing to do with, had a favorite newspaper. They regularly visited its editor and his family on their farm outside of Boston.

The newspaper, published in Italian, was Cronaca Sovversiva (Subversive Chronicle), and appeared regularly for most of the eighteen years its editor spent in North America at the beginning of the 20th century. Following his deportation to Italy in 1920, he published a few more issues just before Mussolini seized power in 1922.

The editor’s name was Luigi Galleani, born in Vercelli, Italy in 1861. His life and times and how he earned the title of The Most Dangerous Anarchist In America is the subject of a succinctly-presented and exhaustively-researched book. It is translated from Italian by Andrea Asali with assistance from Galleani’s grandson, Sean Sayers, who also wrote the Preface.

In different languages and in many different countries, primarily in Italy and the US, the most common charge that kept Galleani moving frequently throughout his 71 years was Incitement to Riot. After fleeing repression in Italy he landed in the U.S. in 1901 and became an active participant in labor and anarchist activity, including becoming the editor of La Questione Sociale, the most read Italian anarchist periodical.

He was a militant participant in the 1902 Paterson, New Jersey general strike and advocated the overthrow of capitalism. Facing riot charges, Galleani fled the country, going to Montreal, but eventually returned to the U.S. to successfully fight the charges after raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, an astronomical sum back then.

From the time he was a young man until he was forced to leave Italy at the age of forty, he not only published anarchist newspapers, but translated Kropotkin, Proudhon and other important contemporary thinkers on the international scene into Italian. He frequently traveled on speaking tours throughout Italy, focusing on wherever there was a strike or uprising, always advocating to make it bigger, and make it spread.

His tours continued throughout the U.S. after his arrival in 1901.

He spoke to striking workers and others at events organized by Italian-speaking subscribers to his very popular anarchist newspaper, for many years based out of the hotbed of Italian anarchism, the quarry town of Barre, Vermont.

However, Galleani had to leave Vermont for his own safety, and relocate to the even bigger hotbed of Italian anarchists at the time, the suburbs of Boston.

The idea of an insurrection for revolutionary change advocated by Galleani in the U.S. had its germination in the turmoil of late 19th century Italy where he lived for the first 40 years of his life. At the time, Italian socialists, like many others, were divided over the question of whether a parliamentary path could bring real, substantive change to society.

Galleani’s popular and often very persuasive side of the argument was that participating in parliamentary politics in post-1848 bourgeois democracies in Europe was pointless. He called for armed uprisings to bring down capitalism and the state.

As poverty and hunger continued to be widespread in Italy and throughout Europe at the time, Galleani’s orientation of encouraging as many general strikes and insurrections as possible in the hope they would spread had a large following. His ideas continued to be popular among workers in the U.S. as well.

His advocacy of “propaganda by the deed” often published in Cronaca Sovversiva held that it was appropriate and even necessary to retaliate against, for example, police chiefs or others for killing striking workers, by killing them in turn. Galleani’s newspaper famously included a bomb-making recipe-book insert on one occasion, with an unrelated title hoping that would help evade the censors.

A series of bombings ascribed to Galleanists were carried out between 1914 and 1920 targeting politicians, owners, and police, the last and most famous being the 1920 Wall Street bombing which killed 38 people and severely wounded 143. It was these attacks which earned Galleani the title of this book.

Whether the tactics and strategies employed by Galleani’s wing of the large, international anarchist movement of the day would be considered adventurist, ultra-left, foolhardy, completely nuts or perfectly reasonable today obviously depends on who you talk to.

Three important things to bear in mind when considering what might be called the strategy of constant, eloquent, multi-faceted forms of incitement to rebellion that Galleani engaged in on both sides of the Atlantic:

One: In 1848, rebellions swept Europe during which every monarchy on the continent except for England and Russia were at least temporarily overthrown, and replaced, in many cases, with fairly significantly different forms of government.

Popular rebellions spread from city to city, country to country, crossing boundaries of nation and language, to form a continent-wide rebellion, affecting politics and life in many corners of the world.

This was just before Galleani was born, but he and everyone else in Europe in his time grew up in the shadow of 1848. There was every reason to think a general strike could turn into a revolutionary moment that would sweep up an entire nation since events like that had just happened. It just needed to go further, and not get watered down or eviscerated by reformist social democrats.

Two: Economic inequality during the 19th and early 20th centuries in both Europe and North America reached its high point during the age of the Robber Barons, a period marked by ruling class greed, horrid working conditions, harsh repression of workers, and rampant corruption. Hunger was widespread. The average textile worker in Massachusetts at the time usually died before the age of thirty.

Three: The tactics advocated by Galleani resulted in many victories for the militant end of the labor and the anarchist movements. However there were defeats as well.

People who become famous, or infamous, are often known for something that happened during one particular year or decade. Whatever they were doing before or after that period is often more obscure. Luigi Galleani was supported in so many ways by the movement he was a part of throughout his adult life in every country he lived in, especially by other Italian-speaking anarchists.

This support continued, though in a much smaller way, upon his forced return to Italy following a wave of bombings attributed to anarchists in the U.S. By the time of his deportation from the U.S. in 1920, simply being an Italian anarchist was grounds for deportation. In Italy, once Mussolini took over, it was an even worse place to be an anarchist, of any nationality.

People received long prison sentences for making a joke about Il Duce; forget about advocating general strikes or publishing an anarchist newspaper.

If his funeral had taken place before Mussolini, there doubtless would have been tens of thousands of people at it, perhaps with a general strike to follow. When Galleani died in 1931, at the age of 70, only a handful of family and close friends attended, all watched by the secret police, as was Galleani’s every move until even after his death.

It was only years later that anyone dared put a tombstone in the cemetery where he was buried.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Want a concert, workshop, or open mic hosted on your Facebook Page?

Even If I can't do a concert in your living room, I can do one on your Facebook Page, and it's actually pretty cool
Since the COVID-19 crisis hit, one thing that's been happening is musicians and artists of all kinds have been engaged in a lot more experimentation with doing concerts, workshops and other things on the internet. I have been doing the same, and it's led to some interesting discoveries, which have led me to making this proposal. I'll explain.

The internet, obviously, is a global phenomenon, and much of what interests us about it is both free (more or less) and publicly available, such as YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, and so on. Since the pandemic has resulted in all of my world tour plans being canceled, I have been doing a free, weekly, multi-platform livestreamed broadcast from my living room every Monday (at 10 am Pacific). Lots of other musicians are doing the same sort of thing.

After the near-global quarantine measures took effect, a Canadian labor union and a Belgian music venue interested in supporting unemployed musicians, and supporting their own communities in these very trying times, hired me to do concerts, both broadcast directly from their Facebook Pages. The gigs both went way better than I had expected. What was so interesting to see was that because I was broadcasting directly to their particular audiences, even though the concerts were both freely available to anyone in the world who wanted to tune in, most of the viewers on each organization's Facebook pages were part of these respective communities -- Canadian union members, or Belgian anarchists, depending on which of the two gigs we're talking about.

So here's how I will proceed with this concept, for anyone interested: I have now expanded the Concert Circle for members of my Community-Supported Art program (or Concert Tier Patrons on Patreon -- same thing). Normally, one of the perks of Concert Circle membership is an annual house concert, when I'm touring in your area. That perk was always a problem for people in places where I don't get to much, even Before COVID (BC). But now, any Concert Circle member can opt to have their annual house concert hosted by me on their Facebook Page.

In case you're unfamiliar with this phenomenon, what happens when you broadcast live from your Facebook Page is any of your Friends or Followers on Facebook suddenly see a window pop up with whatever it is you're broadcasting from your Page. It works more or less the same way with YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, Linked In, VK and other platforms. So it can be a very nice way to stay in touch with your virtual community.

If you give me administrative access to any of these social media accounts, I can broadcast on them (simultaneously even, if desired). There are various ways to make a broadcast more or less public, depending on what platform(s) you use. I can do a concert, a webinar, or host an open mic -- whatever you have in mind.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Not Dead Yet

Hi world! I'm not dead. That's the main thing I wanted to say. If you were worried, but you're too busy to keep reading, you can stop now.

I heard from a couple of friends this morning who had just listened to today's episode of Democracy Now!, and thought they had heard Amy Goodman announce my demise. However, it was not I who died, but another American guitarist, touring performer and recording artist, named David Roback.

Looking at Google, David Roback appears to have been about ten times as well-known as me. For Democracy Now! listeners, this may or may not be the case. Amy Goodman has said my name and played songs of mine on her show dozens of times in the past, and she knows my name well enough. I'm not sure if she's ever said the name "David Roback" on air, and she seemed to stumble a little when she came to it. 

But of course, there's no real need to mention to listeners that it wasn't me who died. Why would I even think of such a thing? There are surely lots of other well-known American musicians whose names begin with "David Ro," right? I know one -- David Roe, in New Orleans. He's a great keyboard player. I'm sure if he died and they mentioned it on Democracy Now!, there would be no confusion at all.

The fact that Amy Goodman wouldn't think it necessary to clarify that this musician with a name so similar to another musician who has been played so often on the show before is not, in fact, that musician who has been played on the show so much before, could, possibly, be an indication of something else. A simple oversight, perhaps. She's very busy, of course.

But there is this other thing that always makes me wonder: before 2013 or so, Democracy Now! very occasionally played me and a couple other appropriately topical musicians in their music breaks. But they so rarely played topical musicians other than me -- that is, musicians who write songs with lyrics relevant to the stories they cover -- that I decided to go public with what had been my private complaints to Amy and her producers, about the lack of relevant music in their music breaks.

What happened after I published that piece is I have been played on the show twice since then, in the course of the past 7 years or so -- far less than before, and it's now been several years since the last time. Of those two times they played me since I wrote that piece in Counterpunch, once appeared to be an accident of some kind, and Amy did not mention my name (although, for whatever reason, she almost always mentions the names of the musicians in the music breaks). The second time, I happen to know the song play happened because of the parting wish of a retiring producer.

I am effectively persona non grata on Democracy Now!, this is very clear. But then, this is also true of way over 99% of the topical musicians out there today. Why?

Here is a quote from a New York Times obituary of the late David Roback (who, I'd like to stress, I have nothing against at all as a person or a musician, and I'm sorry he died, especially at such a young age, only just a little older than me):

The music of Mazzy Star, which Mr. Roback formed with the singer Hope Sandoval in the late 1980s, combined his hazy, reverberating guitar playing with Ms. Sandoval’s haunting, enigmatic vocals. 

This description of the band's sound could describe most of the tracks they play in the music breaks on Democracy Now!. Why? Because one of the producers chooses most of the music breaks, and this person likes that kind of music. And so this person's musical preferences are what we all listen to every day, if we listen to Democracy Now!.

This is not the fault of that one producer. This is a leadership issue. Topical music -- of many different musical genres -- is clearly relevant to their reporting, so much more than these depressed emo bands they play incessantly. And there is clearly no effort made for the songs to be remotely related to the stories. Very often, when they play a track of a musician, it's because that person just died.

I did a study of 110 episodes of Democracy Now! a few years ago. Out of those 110 episodes I listened to and took notes on, I did research on all of the musicians they played (which I also posted publicly). Of the songs that had English vocals, which is most of what they play in the music breaks, 83% of the songs were by artists who had had a #1 hit, won a Grammy, or both. And most of the artists they played were deceased, and had been for a long time.

Meanwhile, there's a whole world out there that me and my compatriots with the Song News Network promote every day, of topical musicians writing songs about current events, and historical events related to what's going on today, and that I put out regularly in my Song For Today podcast. Musicians like us are shut out of the supposedly collaborative, supposedly independent, supposed discussion happening on Pacifica's flagship program, and thus, shut out of a lot of other things. That's how it works -- I know from both sides of this equation.

In my wild fantasies, I get up in the morning not to hear worried friends telling me they think they just heard Amy Goodman announce my death. In my fantasies, I awake to hear Amy Goodman's voice, in between stories, saying something she has never said -- "here's a song from David Rovics, with a song from his latest album -- a song that was written about this very story we are covering, like most of his songs. Here's 'I Was A Stranger,' a song about the trial of Scott Warren in Arizona, from the album, Strangers & Friends."

Or: "Here's another song from David Rovics' latest album about another subject we have covered so many times on this program, imprisoned whistle-blower, Reality Winner. Here's 'Reality Winner,' from Strangers & Friends, which you can find on all the streaming platforms."

Or: "Having just interviewed the Venezuelan ambassador, here's 'In Venezuela,' by David Rovics, from his latest album, Strangers & Friends."

Or: "As the climate crisis worsens, and government action continues to be woefully inadequate, many musicians are writing songs of hope and resistance. Here's 'If There's A Tomorrow' by David Rovics, from his latest album, Strangers & Friends."

Amy has never uttered any of these sentences about me, or about 99% of the other great topical musicians out there, that have never been played in their music breaks. Music breaks which are listened to avidly, with mild disappointment, by hapless news consumers every day, across the country and around the world, as they like to say every day. I doubt she plans take my advice now, after ignoring it for so long.

In 2002, Democracy Now! gave away 100 of my CDs to their listeners as perks for donations. Things have changed since then. (Nobody can even give away CDs anymore, for one thing.) I guess I shouldn't have complained. It didn't change anything, other than getting me blacklisted from Democracy Now!. 

But I'm still here, anyway, and still making music, every day.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Geoff Hannauer, RIP

It's been several days since my cousin, Geoff Hannauer, died in the Netherlands, at the age of 55.  He left behind three children, along with the rest of us who aren't dead yet.

I'm really the last person who should be writing any kind of commemoration of my cousin, Geoff.  But when I look on the internet, virtually all that comes up is this award he won for something to do with marketing, I think.  I don't know, it's in Dutch.

In an image search, it's the only picture of Geoff.  Is his name so common, I wonder?  No, I slowly determine.  The only other thing that comes up is a quote from a letter Geoff wrote to one of his former teachers, which she published in a book.  The letter is an eloquently-worded appreciation for his time studying in Italy.

I don't know if Geoff kept himself off of the internet on purpose, and if so, I'm sorry to be messing things up by mentioning his name on a public blog.  But I'm prompted to write this by the simple fact that now, in addition to this image, one other thing comes up when I search for Geoff's name -- his obituary.  An obviously official-looking document, very recently published on the web, in Dutch.

Maybe someone who knew Geoff better than I can comment, or write me, and tell me if I'm doing something wrong here.  I do have friends who tried to keep themselves off of the internet, though doing a search for one of them just now, I see she has failed in this effort, or abandoned it, because her picture comes up first thing now.  I'm sure the Netherlands has good privacy laws and all that, but I'm still surprised that not one picture of Geoff Hannauer comes up, when you search for Geoff Hannauer.

But Geoff has three kids, and in a few years, they'll be adults.  Well before they become adults, they might do a search about their father on the web.  When they're trying to make sense of things, and figure out who this man was, who died so young, who was their father, maybe they'll search the web, and find nothing.  To me, it doesn't seem right.  So I write this memorial, to the extent that it is a memorial, as a sort of placeholder.  The name, Geoff Hannauer, is in it, along with his picture, and some stuff in Dutch that I can't read.

Geoff was one of four kids who were raised by George Hannauer, and my aunt, my mother's oldest sister, Jane, in New Jersey.  I used to see him once a year on Christmas, for his family's annual Christmas party.  When we were both in our twenties was when we saw the most of each other.  He and his first Dutch wife lived near our mutual aunt, Tippi, and when I'd come visit Tippi, her husband, Henry, and their kids, there was a time when Geoff was often there, too.

As an adult, in his twenties, anyway, Geoff was animated, full of vitality, with a sharp wit, quick mind, great sense of humor, a passion for doing many different things in life.  He traveled widely, learned many languages fluently, read books and talked about them.  He and I followed some of the same alternative media and read some of the same leftwing books, and talked about them, along with Tippi and Henry.

I don't know exactly when Geoff and I fell out of contact, but it was sometime in the late 1990's.  He had moved from New Jersey to the Netherlands, and it had been some time since I had seen him.  But around 2000 or so, I started making regular trips to the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, as a touring musician.  For years, every time I'd be coming to the Netherlands -- about once a year -- I'd email Geoff, checking with people I knew were in touch with him, to make sure I had the right email address. 

Over the course of the past twenty years, as Geoff got together with another Dutch woman, had three children there in the Netherlands, every time I'd be doing gigs in the Netherlands I'd wonder how he was doing.  I never got a reply from him, and have never met his kids.  I have no idea why.  I have asked people if they knew, and nobody ever seems to know.  Did I offend him?  Was he jealous?  I have no idea.

Maybe someone reading this knows, but now, it really doesn't matter.  Geoff was apparently sitting in front of his computer when he had some kind of brain embolism, and died right there in his home in the Netherlands.  Who was Geoff Hannauer?  I have no idea, really.

But his name will come up on the internet now.  And he was my cousin, and he had many positive characteristics, last I checked.  Admittedly, it's been a while.  But if you happen to be reading this because you're one of Geoff's kids there in the Netherlands, hello!  You've got relatives in Portland, Oregon.  Please drop by if you're in the neighborhood!  I'd love to meet you.