Open letter to the WSA, LBC, AJ Muste Memorial Institure...

52 posts / 0 new
Last post
moose
Offline
Joined: 13-04-07
Feb 27 2008 16:26
Open letter to the WSA, LBC, AJ Muste Memorial Institure...

Open letter to the AJ Muste Memorial Institute, the Libertarian Book Club, the Workers Solidarity Alliance , and any and all friends and comrades associated with room 202 in the AJ Muste Building, the "Peace Pentagon", NYC.

From several friendly comrades of the New York Metro Alliance of Anarchist (NYMAA).

Anyone alive on planet earth today knows well the high price of NYC real estate. Adequate office space is difficult if not out of reach for most political organizations wishing to remain in the city, not to mention those with little or no wealthy benefactors or members. It was no surprise then that NYMAA, an active and new anarchist political organization, would jump at the chance to share a small office space in the heart of Manhattan, after being approached in the fall of 2006 by a member of the Libertarian Book Club (and incidentally a member of NYMAA) with such an offer of mutual aid and collaboration.

The office space in question is located in an area of Manhattan called NOHO, easily accessible from many subway trains and centrally located enough to be convenient for many throughout the 5 boroughs. The building, called the AJ Muste Memorial Institute, at 339 Lafayette Street, houses many radical, left leaning organizations, including the War Resisters League, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Socialist Party, and Paper Tiger Television Collective, among others. Its a real gem in the belly of the beast, one of the last hold outs from a time when spaces like it were much more available New York.

The particular room NYMAA was offered to share has been a habitat of a few anarchist and libertarian organizations since the early 1980s. The LBC in particular has been in the space since 1987, and shares the room with a slim list of other groups, notably the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA), groups that in recent years are comprised of merely a handful of individuals, due to the aging and changing nature of the particular groups memberships. Because of this fact, the office space has become a sort of aging "storage space for memories", an infrequent home away from home for a few individuals and their belongings (bags of old newspapers, yellowing anarchist journals, old files from the 80s, boxes of god knows what, etc), and the occasional afternoon nap, rather than a (much needed) center of activity for the local anarchist movement.

NYMAA, being a younger, far larger and more diverse crowd, recognized quite quickly the value of such a space to growing and building the anarchist movement, and almost immediately proposed a radical reorganization of the space that centered on a thorough house cleaning and construction of computer terminals and shelving units that could simultaneously accommodate both the large amount of detritus that could not be donated to the local labor library (or thrown in the recycle bin) as well enough floor space for more than 5 people to meet without sitting on piles of newsprint and rickety three legged chairs (and holding up the book shelves with their shoulders). Initially key members of the LBC and WSA were supportive of this attempt, and it seemed that movement was underway to this end, as the WSA became the critical group in facilitating such an undertaking.

Unfortunately the WSA was anything but proactive, and indeed dragged its feet from the beginning, regardless of repeated urgings of NYMAA's Nuts and Bolts working group (the group tasked with the carrying out of the collaboration to clean the space), including assurances that NYMAA people could and would perform any and all "heavy lifting" and most of the grunt work. Persistent attempts to open consistent and serious dialogue and communications were thwarted or simply ignored.

Suffice it to say NYMAA members had grandiose plans for the space that may have been a bit unrealistic given the long term atrophied occupation and territorial "ownership" of the space by WSA and LBC. However the WSA, while initially supportive of the spirit and perhaps some details of the informal plan (as scratched on the back of a pizza box during a meeting that took place at the space in the early months of 2007), delayed any movement by nearly half a year (and would eventually retreat on the agreement, after NYMAA stopped paying its share of the rent, ), even while NYMAA continued to hold small working group meetings in the space, and slowly needle away at the WSA for action.

And thus a stalemate has ensued. While there has been absolutely no change in the nature of this potential gem in the heart of NYC, the WSA has evidently moved on and made a similar offer to the NYC chapter of NEFAC (ironically a group with several members associated with NYMAA), without so much as a letter of explanation or candy-gram to NYMAA.

All of this would be yet another hilarious example of the lack of foresight and vision on the part of the anarchist crowd if it weren't such a tragedy that such a potentially valuable resource, a gift to the movement from the good folks at the Muste Institute, would remain a "hoarders paradise" (see attached photos). In this sense this dispute is hardly simply a disagreement between two organizations with two conflicting visions on the functions of room 202. Its an issue of movement resources, control, ownership, and the ability of anarchists to look past their personal nostalgia and envision a movement that looks decidedly different than it does today (or minimally 20 years past).

Looking forward, it would be our hope that the LBC, WSA and other occupants of room 202 recognize the importance of this room to the further building of a movement, as a collective enterprise, rather than a personal junk room for a few individuals sentimentally connected to a few stacks of worn out copies of the weekly newspaper of the Swedish anarchist-syndicalist federation. An alternative vision could entail a space cleared of its clutter, with several computer terminals and adequate phone lines, fax machine, a nice copy machine, and perhaps a working coffee maker (all equipment NYMAA has volunteered to donate, if the space could hold such machines). Space for the myriad of anarchist groups to store their flags, signs, and meeting paraphernalia, as well as a much more conducive space to hold small meetings. More importantly a space that new converts to the cause would feel as if the movement had its shit together, took itself seriously, and was concerned about its resources.

Many groups currently attempting to organize could utilize room 202 given the tight market in NYC for adequate meeting space. The space could be opened up in such a fashion that new groups that have formed or reformed over the past several years could share in the responsibilities of organizing and maintaining the space, including APOC, the IWW, Rockdove collective, the Anarchist Bookfair group, NEFAC / antithesis, Radical Homosexual Agenda, NYMAA of course, and other groups with a city wide membership. In its current state, the room is nothing but a joke. Such a situation should elicit indignation from anarchists that wish to see a viable movement grow and flourish.

It is indeed time to clean up.

For images of room 202, go here: http://www.tfgcasper.net/node/56

_____

This letter is not an official letter of NYMAA but the opinion of several members who have been engaged in the aforementioned negotiations.

Please direct all personal inquiries to moose [at] riseup [dot] net

Flint
Offline
Joined: 17-12-05
Feb 27 2008 16:32

Subject typo. I think you mean WSA not WSM. Don't make the WSA paranoid that NEFAC wants to merge!

moose
Offline
Joined: 13-04-07
Feb 27 2008 19:16

Changed all those Ms to As. Sorry WSM.

ronan
Offline
Joined: 26-06-05
Feb 27 2008 19:26

Its quite a funny mistake. If you have so little regard for the anarchists you are trying to persuade that you don't even know their 3 letter acronym they might well not take you that seriously. But that's just an observation.

jonnylocks
Offline
Joined: 13-07-07
Feb 27 2008 20:35

what i think is just the most foul thing about this whole stupidity.. is that in the original email that moose posted here, infoshop, nyc anarchist lists, etc. he also forwarded the letter to THE LANDLORDS OF THE MUSTE ROOM in an obvious attempt to get the wsa evicted. how fucked is that?

jonnylocks
Offline
Joined: 13-07-07
Feb 27 2008 20:38
Quote:
Its quite a funny mistake. If you have so little regard for the anarchists you are trying to persuade that you don't even know their 3 letter acronym they might well not take you that seriously. But that's just an observation.

also w/o regard to the fact that nyc-nefac is hosting andrew flood of the wsm at the muste room in two days, which we've promo'ed the hell out of, and of which the wsa helped up get the space.

Anono
Offline
Joined: 27-02-08
Feb 27 2008 20:59
moose wrote:
Anyone alive on planet earth today knows well the high price of NYC real estate. Adequate office space is difficult if not out of reach for most political organizations wishing to remain in the city, not to mention those with little or no wealthy benefactors or members.

Ironic. I know for a fact that Moose owns a cushy office for his business in Downtown Manhattan. embarrassed Can you deny that Moose?

moose
Offline
Joined: 13-04-07
Feb 27 2008 21:26

Anono, as for my "owning" a "cushy office space" in manhattan, I rent a small office for my design business, it's about half the size of room 202. Yup. Petty bourgie and proud. The previous space I rented I let out to NYMAA working groups and events and any other group who asked whenever I could. I still offer the space up but in a limited scope (for workshops on the cumputer) since it is considerably smaller.

So fucking what. Is this about me?

Jonny, the letter is pretty cordial and comraderly as far as it goes, and yes, was addressed to the Muste space considering that they run the building. Will it result in WSA being evicted? Probably not. The Muste people have ALWAYS been hands off and non-confrontational about tenants. They were sent the letter to add pressure to the WSA to clean the room. Will it effect the event on Friday? Most likely not. Again, they are hand off with groups who meet there and you dont need WSA or any particular group to meet there.

I'll be there on Friday if you wanna talk.

Anyone want to address any substance of the letter aside from the typos?

petey
Offline
Joined: 13-10-05
Feb 27 2008 21:56

i have no part in this skirmish, and no knowledge of the negotiations, but i have been in the room. it's quite small and even if it were cleaned out it wouldn't be much bigger. there is much tossing around above of pejorative language - the WSA are 'aging' and their room has 'clutter' and 'detritus', it's an 'infrequent home' where people have an 'afternoon nap' in their 'storage space for memories', a mere 'hoarder's paradise' where people have to sit on 'rickety' chairs. they also have gray beards, walk with canes, and have little flies buzzing about them.

furthermore, it's:

Quote:
a personal junk room for a few individuals sentimentally connected to a few stacks of worn out copies of the weekly newspaper of the Swedish anarchist-syndicalist federation.

this may be the only place in the states where there is such a collection of material, and that in itself is hugely valuable. a few items were dropped on me when i was there which i couldn't get anywhere else and which i read avidly.

perhaps the WSA people will comment on this from their side.

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Feb 27 2008 22:10

yeah regardless of the issue the tone of the letter comes off pretty patronizing to me.

As newyawka pointed out things like that do have a lot of value - maybe the room would be better used as a meeting space, maybe not, but its good to have somewhere where we can have things like "a few stacks of worn out copies of the weekly newspaper of the Swedish anarchist-syndicalist federation." (If only to have hard evidence of the reformism that got them expelled from the IWA wink )

jonnylocks
Offline
Joined: 13-07-07
Feb 27 2008 22:17

so they've been hands off and non-confrontational.. but you sent the landlords a letter to pressure the WSA? sounds like bullshit.. with what would the landlords pressure them with, if they did? the threat of eviction. it's not very hard to see through this and its totally fucked.

so the LBC and WSA had some space for years, let yas use it for a while, and now yall are trying to gang up and demand that they change it up? well who knows why they dont want to? Maybe they don't have anywhere else to put that material? maybe they thought yas were being assholes and disrespectful so they're politely giving you the boot? i really dont see nymaa doing anything more cutting edge than the WSA, in my opinion. it comes down to their choice.. the choice of the caretakers of that office and the majority of the groups that reside there. the fact that they test-drove nymaa and approached nefac shows their solidarity. trying to pressure them by airing this all over the internet is polarizing and uncomradely... a dick move. especially wack in these times.

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Feb 27 2008 22:39

i'll also point out that moose's comments are ageist. and he fails to consider that this VERY TINY room is the national office of WSA. I've personally encountered lack of respect from certain members of NYMAA myself even tho I don't live in New York. moose's claim his letter is "pretty cordial and comradely" is ridiculous. to send a complaint to a landlord is obviously a threat, a power play.

aisha
Offline
Joined: 28-02-08
Feb 28 2008 02:52

Moose, you say explicitly that A. J. Muste were, "sent the letter to add pressure to the WSA to clean the room". So basically, NYMAA, which you seem to imply is the future, young, hip face of NYC anarchism, supports LANDLORDS putting pressure on anarchists on how to manage their space.

Gee, can I share space with you all? I really want to work with a group that tries to lever LANDLORDS, (no matter how "progressive", it's the principle of the thing) to effect the changes they want.

pdiddy
Offline
Joined: 27-02-08
Feb 28 2008 02:59

Moose done fucked up. NYMAA is going to be paying for his mistake for along ass time.

i pity the (landlord using) fool!!

Mr. T

thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Feb 28 2008 03:23

Christ. If I was in the WSA I'd crack moose in the head with my walker.

sconway
Offline
Joined: 28-02-08
Feb 28 2008 04:44

To Anarchists Everywhere,

The Communications Group of the New York Metro Anarchist Alliance
would like to address the "Open letter to the WSA, LBC, AJ Muste
Memorial Institute..."

The authors of the letter were not empowered by the NYMAA General
Assembly, the Nuts and Bolts Group, or the Communications Group to
send this letter. They speak only for themselves.

Furthermore, no decisions regarding Room 202 in the Muste Building
have been made by the NYMAA General Assembly, the highest decision
making body in NYMAA. We will be discussing the issue at the upcoming
GA on March 1, which everyone receiving this email, except for cops,
is invited to.

As a New York anarchist organization, we hope to continue and broaden
our solidarity with other revolutionary organizations in the city
including the WSA, LBC, Black Cat Collective, NYC NEFAC, APOC, and the
IWW.

Please feel free to contact the comms group with questions or
responses on or off list in regards to this topic.

in solidarity,
Comms Group, NYMAA

EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
Offline
Joined: 25-03-06
Feb 28 2008 05:15

So is this just the new way to handle things in the Northeast if you have a beef?

thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Feb 28 2008 05:18
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
So is this just the new way to handle things in the Northeast if you have a beef?

Definitely. Maybe nymaa should hook up with your folks in Rhode Island.

EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
Offline
Joined: 25-03-06
Feb 28 2008 05:25
Quote:
Definitely. Maybe nymaa should hook up with your folks in Rhode Island.

Totally, honestly they probably have. To be fair though NYMAA did the right thing in distancing themselves from that post and I think that should be commended.

thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Feb 28 2008 05:35
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
To be fair though NYMAA did the right thing in distancing themselves from that post and I think that should be commended.

Definitely a stand up thing to do.

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Feb 28 2008 05:52
Quote:
Many groups currently attempting to organize could utilize room 202 given the tight market in NYC for adequate meeting space.
Quote:
In its current state, the room is nothing but a joke. Such a situation should elicit indignation from anarchists that wish to see a viable movement grow and flourish.

so moose and his "friendly comrades" (not friendly to WSA) are essentially claiming a property right to the extremely tiny office that is the national office of WSA, where the WSA New York Group has had its offices for 23 years. it's an entirely arrogant statement. who are they to decide the allocation of spaces in general in New York? I mean, they could use the same line of argument to try to evict anyone else who happens to be an "anarchist" anywhere in New York CIty. and why does the fact that WSA happens to be a part of the Left-libertarian milieu matter? Why not use a similar argument to evict the Socialist Party from their space, on the grounds that, say, they're an outmoded part of the Left?

these "friendly comrades" -- self-selected space czars -- have decided they have a better use for WSA's National Office than WSA does. any capitalist who buys a building and evicts its current tenants has exactly the same attitude. it's a violation of the principle of self-management, but moose and his "friendly comrades" don't see this because WSA's self-management is something not worth respecting in their eyes.

when capitalist landlords use the Ellis Act to evict residential tenants in California they could also speak arrogantly of the tenants' "occupation and territorial "ownership" of the space" in similarly disrespectful tones.

the "friendly comrades" purport to speak for "the anarchist crowd" but why does this "anarchist crowd" have any right to evict WSA from its space?

Quote:
notably the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA), groups that in recent years are comprised of merely a handful of individuals, due to the aging and changing nature of the particular groups memberships.

actually the WSA's membership has been growing in the last few years, but this may not be visible to the "friendly comrades" due to the fact WSA is a national organization, and its members are not all in NYC.

ftony
Offline
Joined: 26-05-04
Feb 28 2008 10:45

there must be a joke somewhere about room 202 and room 101, but the creative juices aren't flowing yet today...

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Feb 28 2008 11:57

I'M IN UR OFFICE, GRASSIN 2 UR LANDLORDZ

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Feb 28 2008 13:40

Comrades, young and old.

I'd like to say that this email, by this old salt (of 52!) is in a personal capacity only.

A more formal and detailed reply will be issued by NY WSA in the forthcoming days.

I will say that there are many inaccuracies in Moose's email.

The NYMAA “Nuts & Bolts” group’s denunciation says it all. I commend them for doing the right thing.

Some in our movement never seem to amaze me. I am struck by several factors. First, the simple method of blind-siding the WSA with the attack. Basically spamming all the anarchist lists with his email without first, calling for an internal meeting to discuss his issues.

It is my understanding that someone who is both part of the office holding group and a member of NYMAA discussed with the NYMAA "nuts & bolts" group our decision not to share the office with NYMAA any more. So, as I understand it, NYMAA was aware of the decision to now share the office with the young activists of NY-NEFAC, the Anthesis group.

Concerning Moose’s claim to paying rent, it is my understanding that NYMAA made only two payments for a total of $80.00. We were told by NYMAA they would withhold rent until the office was cleaned. We said, fine as we knew the process of going through the archival portion would take time. And the NYMAA share of the rent was minimal, so we could live with it.

That said, we allowed NYMAA folks to meet in the office, store their boxes and banners and generally have free rein ---- we never asked them for their keys back even when they weren’t paying rent.

The second, and more important and troubling aspect was to send the email to the landlord. It seems like everyone else who has posted on this list seems to agree that this was not the smartest thing to do.

In the labor movement, we call those who run to the boss when they have a problem with a coworker a fink. In the joint they call 'em a snitch. The essence of sending the landlord the letter and photos are no different.

In the movement there will always be differences and we need to deal with differences in an internal matter. This would be the comradely thing to do. The right thing to do. To run to the landlord waving some form of "evidence" shows, at best, bad judgment and poor forethought. At worst it is mean, destructive and provocative.

By running to the landlord Moose in essence, is, risking the space that we have had the honor to occupy, pay rent and maintain security and trust (by the landlords) for more than 20 years.

Over these more than 20 years the space has been used by a variety of anarchist groups and individuals. Over these past years we (the named responsible office holders) have had to deal with certain anarchist’s irresponsibility and violating the building's house rules---- we (the named responsible office holders) have had to deal with "cute" anarchist behavior in the building. We, not the irresponsible ones, had to pay the price. The price was to agree to be tighter on giving keys out, sharing the space and self-order. Or else LBC and the WSA would loose the space. By running to the landlord with his own issues, Moose, like others before him, has placed the space at risk. He pays no price and takes no responsibility if the space is lost---unless he is trying to cut some sort of back room deal behind our backs.

On the notion that somehow the room "belongs" to the movement and therefore is an open and "free space", is not quite accurate. The office holders have always recognized the importance of the space. As I said earlier, we have shared the space many times over the years. Since the responsibility --- rent and security --- has always rested on the named office holders we have always tried to be wise and careful in whom we shared the space with.

When we first got together with NYMAA there was a positive and "good feel" to it. Admittedly I wasn't part of any of the face to face meetings, but I was kept abreast of the substance.

In a pretty short order it started to become clear to me (and I'm speaking as an individual) that there were some deep issues. As with the "gangbuster" nature of Moose's letter, I felt that same early on to their approach to the office and the office holders. The spirit and method of Moose's letter bears out what I felt many months ago.

I am intrigued by many things in the letter. Time, at this moment, doesn't permit to get into all of them. Moose writes that the office contains "files from the 80s". True enough, but they are in file cases clearly marked WSA. After all, the space also serves as the WSA’s national office. But the more troubling question is why would someone be going through another's files? Which raises the troubling issue for me, as to why certain irreplaceable newspaper files are missing?

The question of moving archives and other materials, as we said from day one, would take time. It is not a simple matter of chucking stuff in a bin or boxes and shuffling them off to the Tamiment Archives. There are many movement materials that need to be reviewed and so forth. As I am the one who has taken responsibility to do that, I did not appreciate the initial effort to push at breakneck speed the process. I work 7 days a week. I have a family and obligations to them, in addition to what I do for the movement. The materials we have are of great value to the movement. Can they be replaced, no. Can they be better organized and some dispersed, absolutely.

If the goal is to get the landlord to force office holders to share the space with folks they do not want to at this point, it is a poor tactic, lacks good judgment, proper comradely ethics and is, well, plain wrong. The officer holders will continue to share space with anarchists who we feel comfortable with and who are active. Again, speaking for myself, I would have no problem having groups use the office for campaigns and so forth. As we are ultimately responsible to the Muste Institute and our building neighbors and friends, the office holders can, in their best judgment, choose who they want to share (or not) the space with.

Mitch (personal capacity)

historyisaweapon
Offline
Joined: 14-10-06
Feb 28 2008 16:35

As someone peripherally involved in NYMAA and who has been frustrated by the general lack of strategy and growth, I want to both commend the other nymaa people from running from moose's acts as quickly as they can (I think the Fink and Snitch parallels are right on).
But I hope that people don't denounce these acts and disregard the larger issue. This idea of publicly attacking the WSA, targeting the landlord as well as lobbying the anarchist community at large reveals a woefully misaligned understanding of revolutionary praxis. It isn't enough to say that this is just moose's blunder or that people don't want to be associated with it, but also to ask what kind of climate would foster this as even as a possibility.
Personally, I think we should send a picture of Moose's dirty dishes to his parents.

Smash Rich Bastards
Offline
Joined: 24-03-06
Feb 28 2008 17:05

Yankees Suck!!

... and so do anarchists who use landlords as part of their 'diversity of tactics' toolbox!!

(sorry Moose, you fucked up)

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Feb 28 2008 17:05
Quote:
It isn't enough to say that this is just moose's blunder or that people don't want to be associated with it, but also to ask what kind of climate would foster this as even as a possibility.

Even in the best organisations get mooses attaching themselves sometimes. As long as NYMAA are quick to disassociate I don't see that there's a problem, certainly not something requiring a root-and-branch reappraisal of the organisation as a whole.

thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Feb 28 2008 18:27

Smash Rich Bastards
Offline
Joined: 24-03-06
Feb 28 2008 18:46

WSA Strikes Back!

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Feb 28 2008 18:50

i know that moose and the "friendly comrades" like to think of themselves as young and hip and something totally new, but the fact is, their irresponsibility and lack of accountability is nothing new at all but is a long-standing problem in the American anarchist milieu, with its longstanding individualist tendencies. there were recurrent problems of this sort throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s. an example would be Bob Black's successful attempt to get the Process World collective evicted from their illegal office space by reporting it to the city building department circa 1984.

Smash Rich Bastards
Offline
Joined: 24-03-06
Feb 28 2008 18:56

I don't know Moose that well, but always found him to be pretty okay politically and on a personal level... at least from afar (we were both in the AAC network in the '90s). Definitely wouldn't put him in the same boat as scumbags like Bob Black. That said, he messed up and definitely owes people (WSA, NYMAA, etc) an apology and retraction.