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(en) Daybreak #3 - Book reviews - Wipe Away My Eyes: A H i s t o ry of Underground Culture and Politics 1979-1999 By Eric Farseth

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://free.freespeech.org/mn/newspaper.html)
Date Tue, 26 Nov 2002 06:03:50 -0500 (EST)


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Anarcho-folk bum Utah Phillips says that
the long memory is the most radical idea in
America. It's seems so powerful to think
that right here in Minneapolis there was a
militant general strike 60 years ago, that
during the last gulf war anarchists helped to
shut down parts of Minneapolis for days at
a time, that we had thriving vibrant radical
communities that stretched between rural
and urban areas uniting people in common
struggles. That's the appeal this book has
for me. It has dozens of interviews ranging
from national figures like Ian Mckaye to
local anarchists who were active in the mid
90's. It documents a history of our radical
scene that has barely survived the passage
of oral storytelling, even from only 10 years
ago. It's great to be able to read a whole
slew  of  opinions  about    the  anarchist
infoshop, the Emma Center that was on
Bloomington ave from the early to mid
90's. He documents some of teh roots of
what  we  are  building  now,  which  is
neccesary and amazing.
Farseth documents the Riot Girl movement,
the growth of the DIY scene, Motor Oil
Coffee (the predecessor of the Hard Times),
scavenger culture/travellin kids, anti-gulf
war high school radicalism, etc and closes
with reflections on the building of a counter
culture. It's a thrill to recognize a couple
names of people who've, against all odds,
weathered  the  years  and  pressures  and
continue to be active in their communities.
It flies in the face of common sense that
radicalism is a youth thing, and convinces
me that the desire for a better world is
constant in every generation, and that we
need to preserve our sense of history, of
w h a t 's  come  before  in  order  to  keep
perspective as well as to retain our bonds to
elders, not to disregard their experiences
and knowledge, as well as the idea that the
world we're creating is for everyone, not
only the young.
Carlos Cortez, ed., Viva Posada! A Salute
to the Great Printmaker of the Mexican
Revolution. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr
Publishing Company, 2002.
Before I ever heard of the EZLN's rebellion
in Chiapas, I knew about the revolutionary
power projected by the image of Emiliano
Zapata thanks to the propaganda poster art
of José Guadalupe Posada. I'm sure that
you've seen Posada's picture of Zapata
before, too: the guerrilla fighter stands with
crisscrossed  bandoliers  of  ammunition
slung over his shoulders and a sombrero on
his head, defiant with a rifle in one hand
and the hilt of a saber in the other. It's one
of  those  images  that  seemed  to  have
followed me around for years-- I'd seen it
on t-shirts, stenciled in spray paint in alleys,
photocopied  onto  flyers  for  punk  rock
shows, and even tattooed on the neck of
someone that I used to work with who said
that he got it when he was released from
prison. I finally went to the public library
and looked up Zapata; I learned about the
Mexican revolutionary wars of 1910-17,
about Pancho Villa's invasion of the U.S.,
and  the  indianismo  cultural  movement.
When the "Zapatista Army for National
Liberation" (EZLN) rose up against the
Mexican government and the New World
Order in January 1994, I understood why
the ghost of Zapata was conjured up by the
rebel army as a historical point of reference.
And I had been spurred on to investigate all
because of a picture of Zapata done by
Posada eighty years ago.
Anarchist cartoonist, poster maker and poet
Carlos Cortez has selected about 120 of
Posada's woodcuts and metal engravings
for  this  slim  volume,  concentrating
primarily on those from broadsides put out
during  the  most  turbulent  years  of  the
Mexican Revolution. It is no accident that
the pictures chosen for this book are keyed
to an insurgent sensibility: Cortez has been
active for many years in the revolutionary
Industrial Workers of the World union, and
the book's publisher (the Charles H. Kerr
Company)  is  a  Wobbly  worker- o w n e d
cooperative that has been mixed up in the
antiwar, labor, feminist, environmental, and
anarchist movements for over 175 years.
Scattered  throughout  the  book,  and
sandwiched  between  illustrations  of
monstrous animals, firing squads, bandit
folk heroes, skeleton musicians, and weird
scenes of crimes and accidents, are quick
comments  of  appreciation  for  Posada's
work  by  a  variety  of  anti-authoritarian
poets,  artists,  and  propagandists  who
emphasize the value of these illustrations as
street art rather than high-brow museum
pieces. In his short introduction, Cortez
calls attention to a "tradition of radical
popular art" that he hopes that more people
will discover and utilize, since "poverty,
inequality, exploitation and other forms of
social  injustice...goad  artists  of  social
conscience to use their forms of expression
to awaken the awareness of their fellow
humans."
It is exactly this shared sense of socially-
conscious street credibility that makes Viva
Posada! such an interesting and inspiring
book. Even though Posada relied on many
ancient indigenous Mexican elements and
references in his work, you don't have to be
an expert on the Mexican culture or history
to appreciate the raw rage and black humor
of these prints-- they could very easily be
reproduced in radical publications in most
cities of the world with captions about the
 most recent imperialist outrage, capitalist
 crisis,  or  despotic  abuse  in  order  to
 encourage a direct popular response. (I keep
 imagining some of these as graffiti painted
 across billboard advertisements or on the
 outside walls of banks.) There are many
 talented graphic designers, poster makers,
 and illustrators who are involved in today's
 struggle against capitalism, war, and the
 state who should find the time to look at
 Posada's images; his propaganda stirred up a
 lot of people in Mexico, many of whom
 were peasants and workers unable to read
 but  who  nevertheless  read  his  messages
 clearly.


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