Note from RED: Our comrades at Cutting Class are assembling a series of interviews with groups that are part part of radical struggles against and beyond the university.
Check out their latest interview, featuring the Pittsburgh-based Filler Collective. This interview originally appeared over at Cutting Class here.
Counterinfo for the Ungovernable Generation
Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing pieces to highlight the work of some of the groups participating in the Cutting Class counterinfo network. We hope this will provide some clarity on where our crews are coming from and how that affects the way we have organized this project.
We also hope that these interview questions can provide a template for other autonomous groups to distill a collective understanding of their context and projects. If your crew finds these questions useful, write up a summary of your conversations and send them our way as a form of introduction! Cutting Class can be your platform, and we’d love to publish an interview with your crew and start collaborating—not just around CC but also with any other projects that these introductions might incite!
Today’s featured crew is the Filler collective from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Introduce your crew: what are some projects you working on, how long have you been around, where are you based, etc etc.
Filler PGH is a zine distro and counterinfo crew currently based in Pittsburgh. We’re basically just an informal collective of punks and writers who run a distro and claim the name Filler whenever it’s convenient.
Filler started in 2012 as a punk/hardcore fanzine, but has since grown into a platform for local anarchist scenes to share news, analysis, and other counterinfo. We write, design, and distro our own zines, and we usually table with cool zines from other projects too.
Most of us currently go to / have graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, and so a lot of the content we get is affiliated with the autonomous student network and other youth crews. That being said, we’ve been actively trying to make the project relevant/useful for anarchists outside of the campus bubble.
The Big Idea is an anarchist collective that provides space for exploring radical ideas and putting them into action. The collective aims to foster a culture of resistance and mutual aid that celebrates individual and collective autonomy. Plus we have coffee and free wifi.
SCAM is a relatively new project that grew out of conversations between individuals from the Big Idea collective and the (now-defunct) Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition. SCAM is not an organization, it’s just the name for a specific (1) autonomous forum, (2) social media platform, and (3) anarchist network – meaning that anyone who participates can use the SCAM “brand” to suit their own project’s purposes. The forum uses a spokescouncil model that’s meant to be a space of encounter to encourage mutual aid and coordination, and is in no way a decision-making body.
Nightshade is a twoyearold anarcha-feminist collective dedicated to providing physical, digital, and written safer spaces for women and queer people, as well as engaging in direct action against the heteropatriarchy. Nightshade collective members hold monthly meetings at least one community event per month. This month, Nightshade is hosting a benefit party to raise money for Survived and Punished—a collective that supports people wrongfully incarcerated for protecting themselves against domestic abuse. Not all community events are parties. Last month, Nightshade hosted—a reading of “The Secret Joy of Accountability” by Shannon Perez-Darby from the zine-turned-book, “The Revolution Starts at Home” and a facilitated discussion called ’Let’s Talk About Sex… Work’ to initiate conversations about sex work from a feminist perspective.
What are some challenges you’ve faced (internal or external)?
Pittsburgh anarchyland is currently recovering from some serious repression and burnout. Over a year of consistent militant actions resulted in ~30 felony arrests. Two comrades served several months in prison (hit us up if you want to throw some $$$olidarity their way) and a few more are still tied up in legal battles. By the summer of 2017, state repression dovetailed with existing internal tensions, and the subsequent burnout was real.
In the coming weeks, Filler will be publishing a longer piece(s) about this through several projects, including Cutting Class. Here’s an *ahem* exclusive sneak peak:
resurgence of an autonomous radical youth movement at Pitt, three years since the Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition officially began flying black flags, two years since the organizations and crews affiliated with the autonomous student scene posed a real collective challenge to the populist-left’s monopoly on dissent, and over one year since the first coordinated Disorientation Week.
That first Disorientation Week sparked the brief and brilliant dumpster fire refer to as “the” autonomous youth scene: a transient (yet genuine) expression of a collective “we.” At times, it felt like it was our first real glimpse of community, militancy, trust, repression, betrayal, and (attempted) accountability. It’s a declaration of “we” that weighs a bit heavy on the tongue these days.
Ten black blocs, 30-something arrests, and over a hundred felony charges later, it’s difficult to remove ourselves from the collective identity that “we” have developed over the past years’ struggles. The “we” used here is shorthand for the web of chance encounters that deepened as the autonomous youth scene grew. Filler most definitely cannot speak to the experiences of everyone in Pittsburgh’s autonomous youth scene. Consider this our contribution to a growing mythology of closure, a burial ritual for our own lingering nostalgia, a call for multiplicity.”
Photo: autonomous youth bloc turning up on election night on Pitt’s campus.
Read the report-back HERE.
What are some short and long-term objectives your crew has been working towards?
What do you think some of the major limits / major untapped possibilities for radical campus organizing are today?
- The “Marketplace of Ideas” and Social War
- Solidarity is a Weapon
From “Towards a Black November at the University of Pittsburgh,”
anonymous submission from the autonomous student network
Not surprised at the administration’s routine disregard for student voices, we decided to continue our occupation of University space. Excited, scared and pissed, we brought flags, posters, zines, coloring supplies, books and snacks to a student study area on the second floor of the Cathedral of Learning. We sat down with confidence and declared that we were occupying the space. With comrades new and old, we plastered the walls with fliers, flags and art. We used the space for everything our teachers scolded us for doing in school: we shared food, played games, held political discussions and worked through interpersonal conflicts. After writing space agreements for our self-governance, we felt more at peace than we ever have walking the halls of our University.
Disruption, negation, experimentation, occupation — the suspension of routine and rhythm, the conversion of a thousand plagiarized, angst-ridden zines into something terrifying and new: the insurrectional desire to experience unmediated forms of life here and now, to live communism and spread anarchy.
Elaborating insurrectionary potential requires more than blockading the flow of relations conducive to capital; it is a process of reorienting relationships and shared spaces towards the creation of new and transient collective realities. In other words, we must constantly recreate a “we” that isn’t a lie.
Seriously, though. I sure as hell wasn’t radicalized after hitting up some student group’s meeting. I’m here because I’m still chasing the high from that first punk show in a squat house basement, that first queer potluck, that first renegade warehouse party, that first unpermitted protest, that first smashed Starbucks window.
Incite, Conspire, Diversify
Photo: Our generation’s first autonomous student bloc at Pitt
Click HERE for the first report-back.
The “Marketplace of Ideas” and Social War
From “Fuck Stiegemeyer, Fuck the Patriarchy, Fuck the Peace Police,” by an angry-as-fuck trans girl
[As soon as the disruption of the transphobe Reverend Scott Stiegemeyer began], self-appointed “peace police” within the body of “protesters” sprang into action, demanding that we sit down and continue to take Stiegemeyer’s bullshit while our trans siblings die every day through murder and suicide.
Those who stood up to oppose us played directly into the hands of the Reverend’s ilk. By presenting themselves as the “respectable” LGBT community, they took the side of the Reverend and the cops against those who were not willing to be silent in the face of the war against our trans bodies. They forget the war cry of ACT UP’s fight against AIDS during the 80’s and 90’s: Silence Equals Death. Only those “allies” who are not directly threatened by hate speech against trans people and the violence against us it engenders have the option to remain silent without potential deadly consequences. […]
From “I Got Arrested for Calling Michael Hayden a War Criminal,” by Raghav Sharma
And I’d do it again.
I would be astonished if either [cop] believed “disrupting a meeting” was an actual crime. The intention with which they bandied the phrase about was likely an attempt to make us fearful enough for our individual futures that we would comply with the questions they asked us about each other. Upon arriving at the station, my friend and I were led into an interrogation room. In an hour-plus conversation, the officers offered up such gems as “the Constitution is dead” and a lecture about my disrespect for the men and women who died defending my right to speech, the latter of which rang as hollow as the former did true while I sat handcuffed to a wooden bench for talking at the wrong time.