Mid January 2007.
The better half is pottering about the flat and pointedly asks “what is all this shit in the cupboard?”.
I have a look and retell the story of my masterplan to flog an assortment of Valuable and Rare documents on ebay. Or redistribute them to the needy. But yes, I have to confess, they are basically a load of mouldering fanzines that we have now moved house about 4 times without me looking at them.
I resolve to do something about it – to clear space, to get some much needed cash, but also to test my unconscious theorem that “where theres zines, there’s brass”. What is the actual financial value of various subcultural artifacts stretching from the 60s to the 90s?
The clearout includes a number of strands, the most time-consuming being the selling of at least 10 items a week on ebay for 10 weeks. It proved an interesting exercise – one which would see me colliding with my past as well as starring in some improbable encounters with underground “celebrities”.
Week 1: Step Right Up Folks! Anarchy For Sale!
I kicked off by bunging on a load of UK anarchist magazines from the 80s. Things seemed so clear then. Yuppies vs the working class, Thatcher vs the miners, everyone vs fascists. At least the tories came right out and said they were going to shaft vast sections of the population, they didn’t dress it up in Blair-speak consultation jargon.
80s anarchism (in the UK) was in many ways a product of Thatcherism. Arguably “the movement” is still coming to terms with its high profile then and its inability to (er…) capitalise on it.
At its best, anarchism goes some way towards creating an entirely new politics as well as providing some compelling criticisms of both capitalism and its main opponent so far (Leninism/Stalinism/Trotskyism). At its worst it becomes another trap, clique or racket which gives some comfort to self-styled revolutionaries without actually ever achieving anything other than noise and endless pamphlets.
Exhibits 1-10 were mainly local newsletters from throughout the UK. The idea of people being able to walk down their high street and be given the opportunity to buy a scurrilous local lefty newsletter is still very appealing. The anarchists where I grew up were significantly less patronising than the socialists (though not entirely immune from wanting to “educate” me).
I worried slightly about being denounced for “recuperating” revolutionary texts for my own personal profit. My conclusion was that the downturn in the class struggle is not because of a lack of availability of 80s newsletters.
Result: All sold. Most bids: 7. Most views: 42. Highest price: £16.71 for 2 issues of a Southampton zine called Boot ‘Em!. The group and politics behind Class War have the most valuable brand. All bidders from the UK. One bloke makes off with 90% of it. I subsequently discover that he is reselling them on abebooks. Anarcho-speculation?
Week 2: Primitivist Accumulation: Stewart Home vs Green Anarchist.
I cash in on the wave of anarcho nostalgia and add some prime 70s UK mags like Anarchist Review, Anarchy and some more recent stuff like Black Flag. Also some unadulterated pony from Green Anarchist and the american Anarchy a Journal of Desire Armed which I am slightly surprised I still have. Oh and a Stewart Home pamphlet.
This brings back some memories of the lengthy and vicious feud between Green Anarchist and Stewart in the mid 90s, which is best documented here. Needless to say the juxtaposition of Home’s humour, class consciousness and style with Green Anarchist’s misanthropy and cluelessness was as instructive as it was entertaining.
Quite good bids for Black Flag and the bulk of the anarcho stuff. The Stewart Home pamphlet goes for a respectable fiver after 4 bids and 37 views, making it top of the pops this week. With no watchers and no bids at all the G.A. and “AJODA” stuff is left in the recycling bin of history where it surely belongs. Arguably not a fair fight because of primitivists’ objections to using technology (although this doesn’t seem to stop them having websites…)
Week 3: Cash from Chaos
Having rid the flat of most of its anarchists, it was time for my culling scythe to be introduced to the occultists.
It is undeniable that occultism has played a big part in european history. These days I don’t think I’d recommend that anyone spend time looking into this stuff, but I once felt there were some interesting ideas there, or at least some engagingly wacky people. Nice for a holiday, but you wouldn’t want to live there…
Occult means “hidden” and for my purposes here, this boils down to “a large number of customers who are obsessed with collecting things which came out years before they got into it”.
Whilst T.O.P.Y. was often criticised for being a personality cult around Genesis P-Orridge, chaos magick always struck me (in London at least) as being a personality cult based around a few individuals who didn’t even have personalities.
Chaos International always prided itself on being elitist and for “those in the know”. Had the passage of time reinforced that? I also added a copy of Liber Null/Psychonaut (a book I have never read) and a copy of the late great Nox – a magazine so dark that you had to read it with a torch, even in broad daylight. Some of the mags seemed to have odd stains on them and I resisted the urge to hype it all up by saying they were the bodily fluids of some well-known apocalyptic folk musician.
Chaos magick’s stock remains buoyant, with 4 of the mags going for over a tenner and a bidding war peaking at £16 for one of them. Disappointingly Nox only goes for 7 odd quid despite being the better magazine. All items sold, biggest number of views was 74.
It is also worth noting that a significant proportion of chaos magickians seem to be fucking rubbish at paying. Presumably because their “non-beliefs” don’t extend to actually honoring their promises to cough up. “Why pay your bills when you can be STICKING IT TO THE MAN?” as a friend commented. Eventually my persistence paid off, however.