Anarchy Rules - An Exclusive interview with John Zerzan by Jim Redden

By the time martial law was declared in Seattle, the establishment press had decided to blame one person for bringing the World Trade Organization to its knees--a social critic from Eugene named John Zerzan. Zerzan is the spiritual leader of the small group of masked anarchists who attacked such corporate icons as Nike Town, McDonalds and Starbucks, smashing windows, knocking over store shelves, spraying graffiti and provoking a massive police crackdown. Mayor Paul Schell declared a civil emergency and Washington Governor Gary Locke dispatched hundreds of National Guard troops to secure the downtown core. Police, dressed up like Robocops, chased WTO protesters through the streets for the next few days. Thousands of people were shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with tear and pepper gas, or beaten with ballistic batons. Many of the victims were innocent bystanders and business owners who simply didn't get out of the way fast enough.

The chaos was broadcast around the world. TV viewers saw police firing at protesters at point blank range. One cop went out of his way to kick a local resident in the groin, then shoot him with a bean bag round, all caught on video. The man, Joe Knapp, became an unwitting cause célèbre when he picked the wrong time to go out for laundry change. Another cop ripped a gas mask off a pregnant foreign reporter and struck her. The global trade conference ended in disarray on December 3, 1999, and Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper resigned in the face of mounting public criticism a few days later.

It was a stunning victory for the WTO opponents--and especially for the small number of young anarchists who forced the heavy hand of the New World Order.

So who is John Zerzan? Contrary to the stereotypical image of an anarchist, he is not a wild-eyed bomb thrower. Instead, Zerzan is a quiet, unassuming 56-year-old who spends most

of his days babysitting for friends and writing lengthy essays on the problems of modern society in longhand on pads of paper (he doesn't own a computer).

A former Cub Scout and altar boy from Woodburn, Oregon, Zerzan earned a degree in political science from Stanford University before moving to Berkeley to protest the war in Vietnam. While there he received a master's degree in history at San Francisco State and spent three years in a Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California, although he never got a doctorate. Instead, he spent several years driving cabs and working as a labor organizer before moving to Eugene in 1981. There, he began advocating a form of anarchy called "primitivism"--which argues that technology is responsible for many of today's most serious problems.

Zerzan's thoughts have been spread through obscure publications such as The Black-Clad Messenger and the Green Anarchist, published by

small anarchist groups in America and Europe. His themes have been echoed by Rage Against the Machine, the most political rock 'n' roll band since the MC5. We caught up with Zerzan at his Eugene co-op house just after he returned from Seattle.


Exotic: The corporate media describes you as an "anarchist philosopher." How do you see yourself?

John Zerzan: I'm just a writer. I've been working on some of these questions for a long time and trying to make some kind of a contribution, but that's about it. That's all I can say.

Exotic: Do you accept the term "anarchist?"

Zerzan: Yeah, I definitely accept that, at a minimum. To me, anarchy is the effort to deal with all forms of domination. I think most political philosophies accept some forms [of domination], and anarchy tries to identify and ultimately get rid of all of them.

Exotic: Could you explain primitivism for me?

Zerzan: I think one way to put it is, the problem isn't just capital, it's also technology and it's also even civilization. To the leftists, capitalism is the problem. But I think it's more than that. It's easy

'...the heat is on the authorities in Seattle.'