Review: Steel City Revolt #1

Steel City Revolt #1 (Fall 2008)

48 pages, quarterly

(POG, c/o The Thomas Merton Center, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224)

(Full Disclosure: I was affiliated for a couple years with the group who put out this publication. )

I was unsure what to expect from this project, since I hadn’t been keeping up with POG’s recent activities, membership, or orientation. I recalled some members of the group had wanted to publish some kind of ongoing anarchist periodical for years, but election years can dilute the character of resistance (and make it hard to find reefer). It’s good that this finally came together.

The first issue of Steel City Revolt manages to walk a fine line. The covers and printing are professional enough to be taken seriously outside of radical ghettos, without being so slick that you wonder where that money came from. Good layout and graphics. The content is militant, without being too threatening or scary. A sizable portion of the magazine is composed of personal accounts which are much more readable than the kind of manifesto rhetoric that can only ever hope to preach to the choir, at best. The internal group documents and donation/membership forms are less obtrusive than your average subscription card. Overall, it adheres to a pretty orthodox left/activist anarchism, but pays some lip service to the insurrectionary project with a quote and illustration from the Harper’s stuff on the 1877 uprisings, a Bonanno quote, pretty cool centerfold world map listing various international ruptures occuring between July and September.

Fortunately there are no attempts to redefine anarchism and it’s relationship to presidential elections. The firsthand accounts of  the RNC actions did an especially good job of  capturing the mood of these kinds of events and the interview-style article on US elections was solid, all told, there’s a bare minimum of the kind of diplomatic mollifying that is required to keep liberals from spitting on you, because you disagree with them.

The sadly, largely neglected struggle against I-69, a time-line of anarchist hunger strike from Spain, the RNC 8, and a tribute to two recently slain activists make up some of the outside content. There’s also some features/cultural stuff including movie (which is also a personal account of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle) and book reviews, gift ideas, crafting, the mandatory ascetic recipes, and poetry (although an excerpt from P. Shelly’s “Mask of Anarchy” is erroneously labeled as “The Call to Freedom”, as it is in many places on ‘teh interwebs’. It seems like the sparts objected to the rest of the poem and cut their own favorite piece off and gave it their own title)

One of the things that I found less than thrilling was the “indivdualism” vs “collectivism” false-dichotomy that popped up in the “Get to Know an Anarchist from the Past” feature. An anarchist collective must by definition be composed of anarchist individuals, although some days I have to wonder.  Devoting four pages to business union boilerplate wasn’t entirely unexpected or entirely negative, especially the plain talk on the PAT/ATU situation. The unconditional cheerleading for big labor isn’t limited to POG, but is a shortcoming of left/activist anarchism in general, and won’t likely be solved in a periodical review.

All told, POG has put together a entertaining and informative magazine.While I have my doubts about formal anarchist groups, left activism, and their capacity to attack State and Capital, during periods of low revolutionary actvity, a project like Steel City Revolt proves they can publish a worthwhile periodical. I’m glad to see more time devoted to radically-oriented media as opposed to the futility of trying to get honest treatment from corporate media. I look forward to the next issue.