Earth First! Journal (1987, Issue #1-8. Tucson, AZ.)
Writing about Earth First! during its 1980s heyday is a delicate matter. I want to celebrate their best tendencies without ignoring their worst. 1987 is a particularly difficult year to do the former.
After the publication of an article called “Alien Nation” called for a closing of the US border to immigrants (strictly for environmental reasons we are told, not because EF! icon Ed Abbey advocated the use of the term “wetback” and used “cultural chauvinist” to describe his particular brand of racism) anarchists challenged the authors at a gathering in late 1986. So began a years worth of letters to the editor defending the piece. More than one missive in this volume praised AIDS as a positive development for the environment, and various racist, classist, and macho arguments bleed into many of the pages. Given these facts it feels callous to point to the positives that this volume also contains, so I will leave it to our readers to discover those for themselves.
Earth First! is a complex non-organization that has gone through many incarnations, changes in direction, and has never had a political consensus on any issue during the entirety of its history. If I can point out one mitigating factor for these eight issues it is that at least some Earth First!ers fought back in print and in person against the most backwards opinions of their peers, something still needed in the movement today.
Arkangel #4,5,7 (1990-1991. London, England)
Our posting of the complete Arkangel continues into the 90s with issues 4, 5, and 7. The omission of issue 6 is not an oversight- it was never printed. Arkangel was founded by Ronnie Lee, who was serving a 10 year sentence during the magazines early years, and edited by Vivien Smith, who found herself in a jail cell by the time issue #6 was scheduled for release. Sensing the possibility of shutting down this crucial publication, law enforcement in England ransacked the Arkangel office just before the layout of issue #6. It was lost to the ages, and with Vivien facing serious charges a new team of interim editors anonymously produced Arkangel #7, causing a slight decline in the publication’s overall quality.
The history covered by these three issues is tremendous. The death of Mike Hill, Animal Aid’s disastrous labeling of direct action as “terrorism,” and the return of the ALF Press Office are all reported upon, along with updates from groups around the world. Amidst the columns reporting on the actual work of activists though is a disturbing amount of debate, much of it centered on whether animal rights groups should allow participation by racists, nationalists, and separatists. The back and forth articles from one issue to the next mostly fail to recognize the most offensive nature of the argument – that there should even be an argument! It boggles the mind that anyone could see a benefit to taking on the baggage of these far right lunatics and their disgusting politics. During a decade where skinhead violence claimed the lives and dignity of so many it is particularly disheartening that some in our movement saw fit to offer these thugs a place at our table.