The whimsical anarchism of the White Bicycle revolution

In the summer of 1965, Dutch designer and political activist Luud Schimmelpennink suggested a simple radical scheme that would eventually change the world. Schimmelpennink had an idea for creating a more sustainable environment by giving away free bicycles for communal use in Amsterdam’s city center. The suggestion was called the “White Bicycle Plan” and was part of a series of “White Plans” devised by the Dutch anarchist group Provo.

Provo is a Dutch word for “young trouble-maker” and was considered an appropriate name for a group of young anarchists to carry out political “happenings” and stunts that were inspired as much by DADA as by Herbert Marcuse. Provo was formed by artist and anti-smoking campaigner Robert Jasper Grootveld, writer and anarchist Roel van Duijn and activist Rob Stolk in May 1965. Their motivation, they explained, was to fight back against capitalist society that was “poisoning itself with a morbid thirst for money,” where its citizens were “being brought up to worship Having and despise Being.”

Because this bureaucratic society is choking itself with officialdom and suppressing any form of spontaneity. Its members can only become creative, individual people through anti-social conduct.

Because the militaristic society is digging its own grave by a paranoid arms build-up. Its members now have nothing to look forward to but certain death by atomic radiation.

Provo attracted anarchists, beatniks, activists, hippies, philosophers and even “charlatans,” “scratchers and syphilitics, secret police, and other riff-raff.”
The group listed their beliefs as:

Provo has something against capitalism, communism, fascism, bureaucracy, militarism, professionalism, dogmatism, and authoritarianism. Provo has to choose between desperate, resistance and submissive extinction. Provo calls for resistance wherever possible. Provo realises that it will lose in the end, but it cannot pass up the chance to make at least one more heartfelt attempt to provoke society. Provo regards anarchy as the inspirational source of resistance. Provo wants to revive anarchy and teach it to the young. Provo is an image

In 1965, Provo announced their plan to stop all personal motorized transport within Amsterdam, making the streets safe for the public and only accessible by walking, cycling or public transport. Provo presented their proposal to the municipal authorities, suggesting that they should buy 20,000 white bicycles every year giving them away free for public use. This proposal was rejected by the local politicians. Provo then decided to supply 50 free bicycles themselves—this was the “Witte Fietsenplan” or “White Bicycle Plan.”

The White Bicycle Plan proposes to create bicycles for public use that cannot be locked. The white bicycle symbolizes simplicity and healthy living, as opposed to the gaudiness and filth of the authoritarian automobile.

The first white bicycle is given away.
However, as soon as these 50 white bicycles were made freely available they were impounded by the police on the grounds the bikes were not “lockable.” Apparently, all bikes in Amsterdam at that time had to be lockable. Undeterred by the police actions, Provo waited until the bikes were returned and they then fitted each bike with a simple combination lock with the number painted on the bike’s frame. Of course, some of the bikes were stolen, but the White Bicycle revolution had begun.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
09:02 am
‘Encyclopaedia of Ecstasy,’ incredible anarcho-goth-punk zine from 1983

I’ve hardly encountered a specimen from the postpunk years of the early 1980s that better exemplified how mixed up and stimulating all the categories were getting, than The Encyclopaedia of Ecstasy, Vol. 1, an utterly mind-boggling zine put out by Alistair Livingston in 1983. Livingston had/has associations with the anarchist collective/zine Kill Your Pet Puppy which ran from 1979 to 1984…. he references Crass and Bauhaus and Blood and Roses. While one wouldn’t necessarily expect that a “psychedelic goth punk fanzine,” as Livingston himself termed the project, would contain visions that might have emerged from Arthur Rimbaud‘s absinthe-drenched writings, the fact is that any movement led by Crass and Psychic TV was going to be awfully erudite and aestheticized, fueled by some pretty foreboding concerns over technology and culture. It’s so “political” that it fans out into almost pure (hyperverbal, psychedelic) sensation. In keeping with the absinthe feel, one page is titled “Vivé La Decadence, Paris 1893-London 199?”

The cover, complete with an all-seeing Masonic pyramid, reminds me a great deal of Gustav Klimt, which when you consider that it appears to have been executed purely with blocky magic markers, is awfully impressive. (The Klimt association is far from accidental—page 6 features a Xerox’d shout-out to Klimt’s “Jurisprudenz,” which was later destroyed by the Nazis.) At one juncture Livingston inquires, “why aren’t crass the psychedelic furs?” (Good question!) There are suggestive cut-and-paste headlines such as “whoops there goes another nuclear plant” or “man sees world saved by robots.” At the bottom of page 1 is an exuberant shout-out to the like-minded: “There is more… Like “Kill Your Pet Puppy” (a zine)…. The Anarchy Centres, the Black Sheep Co-op, punk lives (!), the people, the music, the squats, the whole beautiful chaoticness.”

Livingston is still active, he has run a stimulating blog called greengalloway for years—in this entry from 2005 he quotes from his own diary from this same era, name-checking Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Lou Reed, Blood and Roses, et al.

This is a pretty rare item—you can get one from Portland antiquarian project Division Leap for $125.

(If you click on any image in this post, you can see a much larger version.)

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider
02:34 pm
Anarchism in America

As the title promises, Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher’s Anarchism in America is a documentary survey of anarchism in the United States. The film presents an overview of the movement’s history, such as the Spanish Civil War, the 1917 Revolution, Emma Goldman, and the deaths of Sacco and Vanzetti, and takes these as the points of departure for what were then (1983) contemporary observations from the outside looking in on Ronald Reagan’s America. Whether viewed as a time capsule or as an able introduction to the various forms of anarchism, the film makes for fascinating viewing and has held up well after 31 years.

What’s perfectly obvious is how much of a libertarian or individualistic route the American strain of anarchism takes—let’s call it “free market anarchism”—in stark contrast to European-style communal living experiments (such as squatters’ groups or farm co-ops). They’re just not quite the same school of thought, although if you were to draw a Venn diagram of what they do have in common, it would be significant but also… probably equally incompatible for the things which they lack in simpatico. Does anyone in Anarchism in America have any hopes for a revolution? Seemingly not in their lifetimes. (Many of them were right, of course. I’ve read that the filmmakers are planning a sequel, so I’d suspect that post-Occupy, post-Piketty, there would be more positive prognostications to be found along those lines today.)

Emma Goldman will not attend your revolution if she can’t dance….

The film also offers anarchist or anarchist-leaning thinkers uninterrupted camera time to make their points. Like Murray Bookchin, who says this:

I had entered the communist children’s movement, an organization called the Young Pioneers of America, in 1930 in New York City; I was only nine years of age. And I’d gone through the entire ’30s as a—Stalinist—initially, and then increasingly as someone who was more and more sympathetic to Trotskyism. And by 1939, after having seen Hitler rise to power, the Austrian workers’ revolt of 1934 (an almost completely forgotten episode in labor history), the Spanish revolution, by which I mean the so-called Spanish civil war—I finally became utterly disillusioned with Stalinism, and drifted increasingly toward Trotskyism. And by 1945, I, finally, also became disillusioned with Trotskyism; and I would say, now, increasingly with Marxism and Leninism.

And I began to try to explore what were movements and ideologies, if you like, that really were liberatory, that really freed people of this hierarchical mentality, of this authoritarian outlook, of this complete assimilation by the work ethic. And I now began to turn, very consciously, toward anarchist views, because anarchism posed a question, not simply of a struggle between classes based upon economic exploitation—anarchism really was posing a much broader historical question that even goes beyond our industrial civilization—not just classes, but hierarchy—hierarchy as it exists in the family, hierarchy as it exists in the school, hierarchy as it exists in sexual relationships, hierarchy as it exists between ethnic groups. Not only class divisions, based upon economic exploitation. And it was concerned not only with economic exploitation, it was concerned with domination, domination which may not even have any economic meaning at all: the domination of women by men in which women are not economically exploited; the domination of ordinary people by bureaucrats, in which you may even have welfare, so-called socialist type of state; domination as it exists today in China, even when you’re supposed to have a classless society; domination even as it exists in Russia, where you are supposed to have a classless society, you see.

So these are the things I noted in anarchism, and increasingly I came to the conclusion that if we were to avoid—or if we are to avoid—the mistakes in over one hundred years of proletarian socialism, if we are to really achieve a liberatory movement, not simply in terms of economic questions but in terms of every aspect of life, we would have to turn to anarchism because it alone posed the problem, not merely of class domination but hierarchical domination, and it alone posed the question, not simply of economic exploitation, but exploitation in every sphere of life. And it was that growing awareness, that we had to go beyond classism into hierarchy, and beyond exploitation into domination, that led me into anarchism, and to a commitment to an anarchist outlook.

Worth noting that Bookchin left anarchism behind, too, due to what he saw as the antisocial element to American style anarchist thought.

There’s one particularly amazing piece of footage (among several included in the film) that I wanted to call to your attention. It’s the demonstration of how a policeman’s truncheon fares against various food items such as an egg, squash, and an eggplant before moving on to a Yippie’s head. That clip comes from an “answer” film made by the Yippies in the aftermath of the Chicago riots that was played on television there due to the “equal-time” rule specifies that U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political parties who request it. When Mayor Richard Daley got to tell the city’s side of the story in something called “What Trees Did They Plant?” the Yippies got to tell their side in an extremely whacked-out short film scripted by Paul Krassner. That starts at 30:50 but if you want to see the entire thing, click over to, they’ve got it. (The guy with the truncheon is Chicago-based lefty humorist and radio broadcaster Marshall Efron, who played one of the prisoners in George Lucas’ THX 1138. He was also the voice of “Smelly Smurf” and works as a voice actor in animated films to this day.)

Toward the end of Anarchism in America, Jello Biafra and Dead Kennedys are seen onstage performing “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now,” while in the interview segment a level-headed young Biafra suggests that anarchy, or some sort of revolution in the USA, is probably a long, long way off. If they do make the sequel, he’s one of the first people they ought to interview for it. I’d be curious if he still feels that way. I would suspect that he’s much more optimistic these days.

Posted by Richard Metzger
10:20 am
Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd guitarist, given 16 months in jail for role in student riots

Charlie Gilmour, the adopted son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, admitted violent disorder in court today in London, after joining thousands of students demonstrating in London’s Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square last year.

During the riots, Gilmour was seen hanging from a Union Jack flag on the Cenotaph memorial for Britain’s war dead. He was also seen leaping on to the hood of a Jaguar that formed part of a royal escort convoy and throwing a garbage can at the car. Gilmour was one of approximately 100 students who attacked a convoy escorting the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during last year’s student riots. The Prince and his wife were on their way to the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium theater when the mob surrounded their car shouting “off with their heads,” “Tory scum” and “give us some money.”

The Royal vehicle’s back window was smashed and lime green paint was thrown on the car, although there is no evidence that Gilmour had anything to do with that. He was, however, also photographed attempting to start a fire outside the Supreme Court by lighting a bunch of newspapers on fire.

Gilmour, a 21-year-old Cambridge University student, was told he must serve half of his 16-month jail term behind bars. From The Telegraph:

Shouting slogans such as “you broke the moral law, we are going to break all the laws”, the 21-year-old son of the multi-millionaire pop star went on the rampage during a day of extreme violence in central London.

Video captured by police officers outside the Houses of Parliament showed Gilmour, from Billingshurst, West Sussex, waving a red flag and shouting political slogans. The judge watched one clip in which he was shouted: “Let them eat cake, let them eat cake, they say. We won’t eat cake, we will eat fire, ice and destruction, because we are angry, very f———angry.”

As the clip was shown in court on Thursday, Gilmour sat in the dock giggling and covering his face with his hands in embarrassment.

On another occasion he could be seen urging the crowd to “storm Parliament” and shouting “arson”.

In addition to attacking the Royal cars, he was also part of a mob that smashed the windows at Oxford Street’s Top Shop as staff and customers cowered inside.

What most of the reporting on this matter wants to remind you is that young Mr. Gilmour is the son of a multi-millionaire pop star. Fair enough, we wouldn’t be reading about him if he wasn’t, but from reading this article and some of the others—his swinging from the Cenotaph aside—I couldn’t help feel that his actions a) took guts and b) the students were right.

I don’t think Gilmour should feel like he has to hang his head in shame at all. It’s the job of intelligent young people to behave this way from time to time, if you ask me!

Something that’s often getting left out of this story is that Gilmour’s biological father is none other than anarchist poet, actor, playwright and graffiti polemicist, Heathcote Williams. Williams, who once served as the anarchist “Albion free state” of Frestonia’s ambassador to the UK, is a rabble-rouser of the first rank. His grandmother was a Major in Mao’s Red Army. Rebellion is in this kid’s DNA. Although he and his son are supposed to be estranged, given his own past, surely Williams must feel some paternal pride in his son’s anti-establishment hijinks?

Posted by Richard Metzger
01:21 pm
Passport to Frestonia: Photo documentation of the ‘free state’ of Frestonia
03:57 pm

A few days ago, I stumbled across photographer Tony Sleep’s amazing black & white documentation of “Frestonia,” the 1.8 acre “free state” of London’s Notting Hill area, that attempted to (or did, depending on how you look at it) secede from the UK in 1977. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen on the Internet in some time.

Since the early 70s, Freston Road, a run down street with several condemned and empty buildings, had become the one of the city’s epicenters of the squatters movement. Many of the buildings housed artists who needed a place to work. In October of 1977, the Greater London Council made plans to raze the derelict buildings of Freston Road but met with rioting from the hippies and the punks who lived there.
Led by Nicholas Albery, approximately 120 squatters living on the street declared themselves the “Free And Independent State Of Frestonia” (the similarity to the kingdom of Freedonia in the Marx Brothers’s Duck Soup was not coincidental). The residents of the squatted buildings took on the adopted surname “Bramley” so that the GLC would be obliged to accommodate them, in the event of a successful eviction, en masse, as one family. It was simultaneously a PR stunt inspired by the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico, a crafty legal maneuver and poetically-inspired anarchism in action.
Poet, actor, playwright and graffiti polemicist, Heathcote Williams (who later appeared in an episode of Friends) served as Frestonia’s ambassador to the UK and dwarf actor David Rappaport-Bramley (who played Randall, the leader of the dwarves in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and “Markoff Chaney” in Ken Campbell’s stage play of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s lluminatus! trilogy) was made Foreign Minister. The Frestonian postage stamps had no price and bore the face of “Guy the Gorilla.” The Minister of Education was a two-year-old, Francesco Bogina-Bramley. A major part of Frestonian communal life took place at The People’s Hall, where films were shown and plays staged. It later became a recording studio. The Clash famously recorded their Combat Rock album there in 1982, perhaps looking to soak up some revolutionary, and authentically countercultural, inspiration.
The Frestonians annoyed the GLC for a few years before many of the original squatters simply moved away, replaced by folks who were less committed to the poetic ideals of an Albionic anarchist collective and more committed to shooting smack and having someplace free to live. Some of the original squatters and their offspring still live in the area, but the buildings (which had been condemned since the 1950s) are mostly gone now, except for the People’s Hall building, which still stands.
Squatting is a subject I know something about. From early 1983 until the end of 1984, I lived in several different squatted buildings in the Brixton area of London, and in the infamous (and huge) Wyers squat of Amsterdam. I’ve never seen better documentation of what it’s like to live in a squat than in these amazing photographs by Tony Sleep, who was himself a resident of Frestonia. It’s a glimpse at what now appears to be a lost world. With the last vestiges of squatting are being stamped out all over Europe (Holland’s strict anti-squatting laws passed in the Summer of 2010, effectively ending what was at one time the most vibrant squatters movement on the continent) this way of life will no longer be there to inspire, and to assist and help others who want to drop out of the rat race as much as possible, or who simply need a safe place to sleep at night.

If there are empty buildings, it should be legal for people without homes to live in them. Figure it out later, but find the poor and the indigent somewhere to stay first, that’s what I say. Self help housing should be legalized everywhere.

The Squatter’s Handbook

Below, a Hugh Laurie-hosted documentary on the post-apocalyptic performance art troupe, Mutoid Waste Company, who came out of Frestonia’s “Car Breaker Gallery.”

Part 2 after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger
03:57 pm
Merry Crassmas: Anarcho-punk goes Muzak (+ bonus Penny Rimbaud interview)

The charming cover of Merry Crassmas

Click play to hear all of Merry Crassmas!
The end of 1981 likely saw highly influential British anarcho-punk band Crass both energized and exhausted after dropping their third album, the remarkably complex feminist manifesto Penis Envy.

One speculates that the idea for their final release of the year came to the band as a “eureka!” moment. Why not release a 7” novelty record made up of a department-store-style, organ-and-drum-machine medley of their anthemic and obnoxious tunes, including “Big A Little A,” “Punk is Dead,” “Big Hands,” “Contaminational Power” and others? Slap on an innocuous Santa Claus intro and obnoxious outro at the end, pop it into a sleeve with a strange and horrific collage of an Xmas-day family holiday scene by Gee Vaucher, and you’ve got an instant inside-joke punk classic on your hands.

As a horror-day bonus for you Crass-heads, here’s a wide-ranging, as-yet-spotlighted 2007 interview from with your man, drummer Penny Rimbaud…

Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4  |  Part 5  |  Part 6  |  Part 7  |  Part 8 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Crass remasters and epic interview
Crass: There is No Authority But Yourself
Music for Crass: Mick Duffield’s Christ the Movie
The unexpected Crass-Beatles Nexus Point

Posted by Ron Nachmann
11:05 am
“We’ll never die!”: Atari Teenage Riot returns

It’s great to see that Berlin’s Atari Teenage Riot—electronic anarchists and creators of the “digital hardcore” sound—are back and in terrific shape. Predictably, what was first slated as a reunion for a few European shows has turned into a full-blown world tour for Alec Empire and Nic Endo, along with new Rioter CX KiDTRONiK.

Throughout the ‘90s, ATR spread sonic fire from the nexus of hard techno, thrash-punk and noise, with their members (including formers Hanin Elias and the late lamented Carl Crack) also releasing solo projects on their own Digital Hardcore Recordings label.

As shown by this stage invasion during their appearance at Zurich’s Fusion Festival from this spring, the Riot seems back on in full force.

After the jump, relive ATR’s famous 1999 anti-fascist May Day riot in Berlin, with commentary by Empire…

Posted by Ron Nachmann
03:36 pm