Zerowork Documents – Notebooks – Letters

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Excerpt from an email to Anthony Davies from Peter Linebaugh regarding documents from the Franconia File, deposited with MayDay Rooms in June 2013
“….the typed letter was addressed to André Schiffren, at that time editor and publisher of Pantheon books. This publishing house was later sold to Random House I believe and Schiffren departed from it establishing The New Press. He was not interested in the translation and publication of the Feltrinelli book. This was disappointing but also instructive. Pantheon was left-liberal, you might say, and certainly well-heeled, in contrast to what we were proposing as a revolutionary critique of capitalism. We had to self-publish.
This is the anthology we in the U.S. used to call “Italian materials.” It was a major work in helping us understand the Marxist method of analysis without the interpretation that was dominant and having its origin in the CP. While some of this writing, or kind of political writing, was published in Radical America under the editorial work of Paul Buhle, this ‘Italian perspective’ which later went under the name of ‘autonomous Marxism’ never found purchase within the academic communities which themselves were expanding at the time.
At the time (1972) we also held a conference in Franconia, New Hampshire, called “the Bolshevik Bandit Conference.” My memory here is uncertain but I can say, speaking only for myself, that three themes were occupying me at the time: 1) the project that became Zerowork, 2) the newly formed New England Prisoners’ Association and its newspaper, NEPA News, and 3) the composition of my research work for the Warwick ‘crime group’ that resulted in a) Albion’s Fatal Tree and its partner Whigs and Hunters, and b) The London Hanged. To me there were no inconistensies or contradictions in these three projects, though I failed at the time to express what united them or what they had in common. One might have seen their inter-relationship in terms of the academic labor market which was fast changing. One might see their inter-relationship as various distances from an anti-capitalist political project. One might understand them as studies of working-class composition, expressed in three different idioms, namely, one of frank Marxist discourse with its revolutionary internationalism, or one of dialogue with prisoners in terms of traditional reform but with prisoner voices predominating, or one of English empirical research on the subject of criminalization in relation to the making of the working-class.
Finally, the relationship of this work to the powerful currents of feminism and Black Power was problematical and complex. At the time, it is fair to say, that it was largely ignored, though it incurred spirited criticism, especially on questions of gender and reproduction, which has only made the movement in which we continue to struggle, stronger!”

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