Do Or Die #1-10 (1993-2003, Brighton, England.)
A few years ago a friend asked me if I had a complete set of Do or Die, the British Earth First! publication that inspired and incited eco-warriors throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. At one time I did have them, but they had long since been stolen by a Joint Terrorism Task Force.
After a brief discussion, we decided that Do or Die was too important to fade into obscurity. We began tracking down each issue, and decided that while we were at it we ought to archive some other publications as well. That effort is how this web site began, and now, thanks to 56a infoshop of South London and Tim @ NEDS Northampton, we can finally share the very rare issue #2. This completes our collection, and our original mission as well.
When read as a set, Do or Die is a chronicle of people from across the globe counter-striking capitalism, ecocide, and the state. Each issue is better than the last, but more importantly, each page is a spark licking at the fuse of the bomb that is your heart. Once lit, you’ll know that these pages are not mere history, but a reminder that we can explode onto the world stage like the fighters before us have. Do or die, now is the time to rise.
Do or Die #9 (2000, Brighton, England.)
We always write the same thing when we post an issue of Do or Die, so this time we will spare you the superlatives. This issue has worldwide ecological news, human freedom struggles, non-human direct action, and a radical history of football alongside a little bit of humor and many inspiring images. A must read, so click below and get to it!
Green Rage: Radical environmentalism and the unmaking of civilization (1990, Boston, MA.)
One of the first books I bought about radical wilderness defense was Green Rage. It is an excellent investigation of the origins of (western) environmental radicalism, and I recommend that you read it cover to cover.
Speaking of covers, you might notice that this particular copy of Green Rage is a little ragged. The reason for that is because this is my copy, and after reading the book I took it’s message to heart. Several years ago in Oregon, a small group of activists from around the region were protesting at a breeding facility that supplied rabbits to the vivisection industry. When we arrived the farms owners were not present, and neither were any law enforcement. Not coincidentally I quickly found myself living with some critters who liked to chew on everything in our humble home. I hope you will enjoy Green Rage as much as they did!
Earth First! Journal Volume 7, Issue #1-8 (Tucson, AZ.)
One of our dreams here at Conflict Gypsy has been to build a complete collection of the Earth First! Journal, the radical environmental movement’s longest running periodical. While we are still missing some key issues, we have managed to gather enough of this classic publication to begin posting them one year at a time, starting with 1986.
The eight newspaper-format volumes printed by the Journal collective in 1986 are filled with fascinating tales of our eco-warrior progenitors, including Paul Watson’s epic telling of The Raid on Reykjavic in issue two. It is tempting to spend several paragraphs discussing the contents of these yellowing tomes, but perhaps it is more important to spend these words discussing the fact that the journal is still being produced- AND IT NEEDS OUR SUPPORT!
The Earth First! Journal has been documenting environmentally motivated direct action for more than 30 years, but it struggles to pay the bills these days as fewer and fewer people read print magazines. Here at CG we believe wholeheartedly that history should be “told from below,” that the words of our comrades are more important to our understanding of past events than the musings of academics and professional historians. The Journal is still the best source for this kind of news- the written accounts of actual participants in our struggle! Please do not let it disappear like so many other publications in the last decade. Subscribe to the Earth First! Journal by clicking here!
Elaho Valley Anarchist Horde on the end of the 7Cs: A Journal of Sasquatchology (2001, Victoria, Canada)
“The sun shines brightly in the yard, the sky is clear, the air fresh and bracing. Now the last gate will be thrown open, and I shall be out of site of the guard, beyond the bars, – alone! How I have hungered for this hour, how often in the past years have I dreamed of this rapturous moment – to be alone, out in the open, away from the insolent eyes of my keepers! I’ll rush away from these walls and kneel on the warm sod, and kiss the soil, and embrace the trees, and with a song of joy give thanks to Nature for the blessings of sunshine and air.” Alexander Berkman, Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist.
Upon my own release from prison I traveled to Seattle from Sheridan, Oregon to turn myself in to a halfway house. I too was an anarchist in the hands of the enemy, and while my incarceration was not as long or harsh as Berkman’s, his memoir contains long portions – sometimes entire pages – that feel so familiar it seems as though I wrote them myself. Several times in the final chapter he mentions a longing for wilderness, an urge to run from the dead cities of the northeast into the forests. On that ride from one lockup to another I knew why. Civilization is inherently confining, and even outside of the greybar hotel most of our lives consist of moving from one box to another in a continuous and agonizing march that we have little power to control. Looking out the windows of my friends car I wanted the passing sprawl to be sucked into the soil and replaced with life, beauty, and liberty.
The nature of incarceration can certainly make a person think about the incarceration of nature, but even those anarchists who have been lucky or smart enough to stay out of state custody often get it. If you are opposed to the artificial hierarchies of class, why support the equally arbitrary hierarchies based on species? If you think that forests have less worth than humans than I say you haven’t met enough cops! There isn’t one authority figure on earth I wouldn’t trade for a tree, and anyone who would argue the opposite is a moron. But forgive my rambling, I have written all the above because this wonderful DIY zine has sparked my sense of rebellion and wildness!
The end of the 90s and the early 2000s was a busy time for forest defenders, and across the globe direct action campaigns for wilderness were abundant and inspiring. There are many famous examples, and while Warner Creek and the anti-roads campaigns of England may have stolen the spotlight, one rugged crew in British Columbia carried on an overlooked battle that every activist should know about. If you like raging warrior grannies, sabotage, unlikely coalitions, and open revolt against corporations and their governmental subsidiaries, then you ought to read up on the history of actions in the Elaho, Squamish, and Simms valleys. This zine, written by members of the Elaho Valley Anarchist Horde as both a primer for new activists coming to the Elaho and a means of publicizing the campaign, is an excellent introduction.
The True Story of Stumpy the Bear + Smokey Flyposts. (Dates unknown, city unknown, US.)
The system as we know it did not magically appear one day, nor did it evolve to its current state without having to contend with resistance. Shaping the minds of the people to accept what they otherwise would rebel against is therefore very important to those at the top. After all, if you can stop a fight before it even begins you can get down to the business of despoiling the earth at maximum profit! This is why cartoon figures smile out at us from the billboards of extraction industries, why cute jingles accompany the commercials of companies who sell us back what they never should have been allowed to take to begin with. If they can convince us at a young age that they are our friends it can keep things from getting messy later on…
This is why subverting the iconography of our opponents is so important. They develop their logos and mascots to imbue their brands with specific traits: strength, respectability, or good ol’ ‘Merican chummery depending on their goals. But their branding is not safe, it can be kidnapped and utilized for our own ends!
The US Forest Service is a government agency that many people mistakenly believe exists to protect and “manage” the eco-systems under its care. Nothing could be further from the truth. The US Forest service is essentially a wing of the logging industry that auctions off public land for private profit at a net loss to tax payers. (Yes, the land is sold for less than what taxpayers spend for its upkeep!) How does an organization behave so badly for so long without anyone noticing? The USFS has as part of it’s solution a cartoon bear.
Radical environmentalists subvertised the heck out of Smokey in the 80’s and 90’s to great effect. The free Smokey comic books given out at ranger stations were replaced with Stumpy comics, and timber towns across the northwest saw wheat pasted posters showing the real Smokey going up on vertical surfaces with regularity. Given the current anti-corporate climate in America, these early examples of spokes-bear Ju-Jitsu ought to inspire a few folks to do some subvertising of their own…
The Black Cat Sabotage Handbook, 3rd edition (1996, Eugene, OR.)
When I was a kid the world didn’t have the sort of instant gratification now expected for all transactions, and thank goodness. You can really appreciate the value of something more once you’ve clipped five proof of purchases, put them into an envelope, mailed them away, and waited 6 to 8 weeks for your Zartan action figure to arrive. Distribution for the Black Cat Sabotage book worked the same way – you clipped an ad out of a zine and mailed it in along with concealed cash. A few months later a copy showed up in a nondescript envelope. I still remember when mine was delivered…
My first copy of Black Cat left me feeling like I was involved in some sort of conspiracy just turning the pages. Sure, most of it was reprints that I had already seen before, but the layout, the graphics, and the text all seemed to carry the message that action was urgent and that the enemy was watching. (Of course, we were all sending envelopes with our return addresses to the same damn PO Box in Eugene, so if anyone was watching they already knew who we were!) At the time I didn’t know who was publishing or distributing it, but rumors eventually surfaced in the mid 2000’s that the book was compiled by Bill Rogers, an accused Earth Liberation Front member who took his own life behind bars in 2005. In his suicide note he said that his death was a “Jail break,” and as he slowly suffocated himself with a plastic bag he gripped one hand into a fist, and with the other, extended his middle finger.
I only met Bill one or two times and did not get to know him well, but since his death I have heard many complicated things about him. From what I gather he was at times heroic, but had some serious, perhaps unforgivable flaws that should not be ignored. In that respect he is like the book that he was rumored to have clipped together and sent out anonymously. The Black Cat Sabotage Handbook contains some good bits of information, some serious inspiration, and some decent arguments for the use of sabotage and even violence. Likewise, it also contains some foolhardy nonsense that could get someone jailed or killed for little positive gain. The cover shouts, “BEWARE!” and smart readers will heed that advice.
In closing, here is to Bill. He was a man I can best respect by keeping off a pedestal. I can not deny that many of the stories about him are disconcerting, but I also can not deny the beauty of his attempts to spark a revolution against industrialism. As his friends sat shivering and complaining in a car, it was Bill who trekked alone through snow, uphill and burdened with the weight of gallons of fuel to set a fire that would announce to millions the existence of the Earth Liberation Front. That speaks volumes about his fighting spirit, and his wild drive to right the wrongs our species has perpetrated. His death saddens me, but something tells me that someone so intent on freeing others would not have done well spending decades behind bars- perhaps in that sense his “jail break” really was a form of escape. He will be remembered as a warrior.
Breaking Free Video Magazine #1 (1998, Eugene, OR)
Back in 1997 I was kicked out of the Liberation Collective house in Portland and moved back to my home town of Eugene. Portland was a great place for activism in those days, but Eugene didn’t have much going on… yet. So, me and an old friend decided to start an Animal Defense League chapter. Right from the start we had a tough time getting people in the streets, but we had another idea…
I grew up skateboarding, and one of the most fascinating things about that art form is how coverage of skateboarding ultimately progresses the art of skateboarding. Every time a new skate video came out kids all over the world would see new possibilities, would feel the fire lit beneath them to try new tricks, and would find courage to do so because they had just seen other people do it right in front of them. They would film their tricks, and then the whole process would happen again and again, with each new video being more impressive than the one that preceded it. My buddy had just bought a top of the line video editing setup- A pentium II with a 9 gig drive, an SVS deck, and a copy of Premiere 3.2 with a $3,000 analog video capture card. Maybe we could do for activism what skate videos did for skateboarding.
The world of non-human liberation movements was fast paced and loaded with action back then. I knew that someone needed to document everything going on, but I couldn’t afford to travel and film it all. Most AR groups had a cheap camera though, so I put out the word that we wanted to get everyone’s footage for a video, and slowly the tapes started to trickle in. We learned how to edit through trial and error, and after several months of frustration in front of the computer, Breaking Free #1 was available.
The video is not perfect in any way, and there is a lot about it that embarrasses me. Still, there was nothing else quite like it at the time. Sales were high, it was translated into German and Spanish, bootleg copies were everywhere, and even mainstream publications like Animals Agenda were praising us. While I cringe at the mispronunciation of “Nietzsche,” the bad joke of an opening, and yes, the techno music, (Sorry, Mr. K!) I feel pride that we created such an accurate picture of the state of the movement, and insured that so many acts of anger, disobedience, and compassion were not forgotten. Please watch it with critical, but forgiving eyes.
No Compromise #8 / Strategic Non-Violence for Animal Liberation Insert (1997-1998, Minneapolis, MN)
On November 16th 1997, nine years prior to the day that I turned myself in to federal prison in the SHAC 7 case, I was arrested in Anaheim, California. Activists from around the country had descended upon the home of Disneyland to protest the American Association of Laboratory Animal Scientists and we soon found ourselves facing a small army of law enforcement officers. They had miniature tanks, riot suits, pepper spray, batons, counter sniper units on rooftops, and a willingness to use all of the above to maintain the right of vivisectors to keep cutting open living animals. The demonstrations that day set in motion a chain of events that would change the face of grassroots animal rights in America. What does any of this have to do with No Compromise #8 and it’s insert? Allow me to explain.
Freeman Wicklund was a vibrant, young activist from Minnesota. After animal rights militancy had been severely hampered in the late 80’s by grand juries, arrests, and the presence of informants, Freeman was one of the activists who had helped pick up the pieces. His organizing with Student Organization for Animal Rights had made Minneapolis a sort of mecca for direct action oriented vegans, and his projects in the early 90s included traveling to England to bring back literature, documentaries, and interviews about the strengths and weaknesses of the movement abroad. These materials proved to be very influential, and after a short period of contributing to publications such as Out of the Cages, Freeman started No Compromise magazine with a few friends. No Comp, as we called it back then, was the spark that lit a prairie fire. After its publication actions against animal abusers hit a fever pitch.
The 1990s were a complicated time. On the one hand a lot of dedicated, sincere people were taking tremendous risks and making large sacrifices to liberate animals from harm. On the other hand, thrill seekers and status hunters wanted to make a name for themselves while having a little adventure. The epicenter of the latter phenomenon was Salt Lake City. The straight edge scene in Utah was notoriously violent and cultish, and it adherents had attached veganism to their gang-like mentality. Direct actions were on the rise in the area, but many of them were being performed by people who could care less about the politics. When Freeman visited the state in 1997 to help train young people to deal with grand juries, he found a movement based on bragging and scene points. Animals were secondary to climbing the straight edge social ladder, and snitching and self incrimination were epidemic. Disgusted with what he saw there, Freeman began reading the works of pacifist Gene Sharp, and slowly he began to have personal doubts about the role of sabotage and aggressive protest.
Those private conflicts became very public in Anaheim. The AALAS protest drew hundreds of people from multiple states and ended in 8 arrests. While Wicklund was being arrested he began to shout that he was opposed to the ALF at a nearby camera which he mistakenly believed belonged to news media. (The camera was being operated by the police to gather evidence against the protestors.) While we were being detained in the Orange County Jail he told the other arrestees that he was a pacifist now, and upon his release he announced via e-mail lists that he would be quitting his job as editor at No Compromise. When issue #8 was released it contained an editorial announcing his departure, along with a 16 page insert that detailed the focal points of his new strategy.
The supposed “violence vs pacifism” debate is unlikely to ever be resolved, but the contentious battles between the two sides of that argument can sure tear apart a movement. Freeman, for his part, was not content to simply let his views be known. His actions now provide us with a clear road map of what not to do with tactical dogmatism; he began traveling the country denouncing direct action at conferences, he sent out press releases denouncing ALF actions, he even went so far as to visit and disrupt meetings of pro-direct action organizations, including Student Organization for Animal Rights, the group he once worked for.
Many people who had been inspired by Freeman now could not decide where they stood and slowly drifted away. Actions slowed to a standstill as infighting raged and many activists just decided to flee the internal drama. By the start of 1998 the number of grassroots groups were declining and regional networks were falling into disarray.
As time went on Freeman faded into obscurity. His activism became a hodgepodge of confusing moves like running for a school board position in Minnesota, giving equal time to the meat industry when he would table, and requiring that members of his group sign a pledge acknowledging that he was their leader. When his court date in the Anaheim case came around he skipped it to give a lecture about the failings of the Animal Liberation Front. I did show up for my court date, and was sentenced to 45 days in one of the most violent county jails in the United States. There, while on hunger strike, I rejected my own pacifist tendencies, and started down the path that would ultimately lead to my participation in the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign.
Ecotage! (1971, New York, New York.)
For the last several months we have been pursuing some of our favorite activists and friends to write blogs introducing classics from our archives. As it turns out, our friends and favorite activists are lazy and regularly delinquent in transmitting promised writings. We still love them, even ol’ Ginger Rage, AKA Will Potter. He wrote the first of these guest editorials, and it was well worth the wait.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is widely credited with igniting the modern environmental movement, which is true, but less well known is how quickly the movement radicalized.
By the first Earth Day in 1970, anonymous individuals were making headlines by targeting polluters. Illinois’s “The Fox” and Florida’s “Eco-Commando Force” developed a cult following. They were environmental vigilantes taking on the big, bad corporations, and people loved them.
By 1971, Environmental Action held a national contest soliciting tips on “ecotage.” The tips were compiled in a book and featured in national media.
The tone and honesty of Ecotage is refreshing and a bit surprising when read in the context of the current political climate. Reader-submitted ideas for tactics included re-painting billboards, pulling survey stakes, subscribing CEOs to hundreds of magazines, waging phone blockades, and sabotaging pollution-spewing pipes.
As described in the introduction: “…if ecotage is condemned, the condemnation is of a system which demands ecotage, a system which is so unresponsive to the needs and dreams of its constituents that it forces them underground to effect change.”
During the 1970s and 80s, this mainstreaming of animal and environmental concerns, combined with tiers of lawful and unlawful groups, was undeniably a threat to the corporations targeted. They needed to displace activists from their moral high ground.
A key development in orchestrating this fall from grace was the decision to wield the power of language. For those who break the law in the name of animal rights or the environment, industry groups would change the language from “ecotage” to “eco-terrorism.”
Ecotage should serve as a reminder that there is nothing inevitable about this. The FBI labels “eco-terrorism” the “number one domestic terrorism threat,” but public support is not, and has never been, with the corporations destroying the environment; it’s with those trying to stop them.