Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Lynch All Landlords - In Solidarity with GPAC
The following text was sent to me by a comrade in Philly about the recent possible eviction of the GPAC space. Read other articles from GPAC about their attempted eviction from their space by 'anarchists' here and a reply from the landlords here.
“The potential gravedigger of the system is the same one who feeds it.”
Our relationship with the owners of 5001 Penn Avenue initially presented
itself superficially as an, albeit precarious, friendship. Their stated
desires to be part of a struggle against exploitation, their self-deluding
conception of themselves as anarchists, these pretenses brought us into
the present relationship.
The movement to, once and for all, bury the capitalist social relation
cannot be understood as a meeting of subjective desires. We all have our
objective positions in the economy, and our interest in maintaining or
destroying capitalist relations are based on these roles.
Our relationship with James Knopf and Laura Shaffer, then, must be
understood in objective terms, not obscured by stated political
affiliations, dietary restrictions, hair length, musical preference, yoga
positions, substances used, or subculture. Our relationship is that of
tenant and landlord, worker and boss, an interaction based upon our
corresponding roles in the economy. We work on the building, they make
profit, we spend 7 months on repairs, they prepare to sell the building
for 3 times what they paid for it a mere 3 years earlier. It is the same
relationship that has forced itself over the entirety of the globe, it is
older than our collective memory and broader than all of our imaginations.
It is the alienated activity of generations of people just like us, now
long dead, whose lives were appropriated to build the bricks that hold
this very building in place.
Wealth, most acutely concentrated in the hands of those who appropriate it
from the work of others, accumulates through generations. It is a dynamic
phenomenon, moving freely from hand to hand, presenting its possessor with
varying degrees of power in the economy. When, without any work of their
own, hundreds of thousands of dollars were given to James and Laura, they
decided to invest in, among other things (another property, thousands of
dollars in recording equipment, exotic spiritual escapades in southeast
Asia) a building on what is becoming the trendiest stretch of Penn Avenue.
Of course the value of a property in this “up-and coming” area would
appreciate, but surely not on its own. No, that would take far too long.
And so they put on their public facade
of radicalism and expressed a desire to provide a space for social
And here we are, like those generations of people just like us,
now long dead, witnessing our lived activity being recuperated for the
profit of those who already had the world given to them.
And so it became apparent, through words and through gestures, that what
was initially conveyed as solidarity was, in actuality, a bizarrely
exploitative attempt at charity. As with Carnegie’s philanthropy a
century ago, they were searching for a way to absolve their consciences
while still being able to make a handsome profit at the end of the day.
As guilt gradually eroded, they became acquainted with others in their
economic position, and developed a cordial relationship with local
developers from the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, an organization whose
main objective is to encourage an appreciation of property values at all
costs, engaging in a blatant assault on the working class of the area.
Of course, it doesn't end there. James, now unencumbered by a previous
guilt, stated clearly how far he feels his influence should extend.
“Really what this comes down to in the end is I personally have
reservations about helping GPAC stay in the space by selling the building
to [a friend]. Most of all, I haven't been convinced that GPAC is a fit
His role in the economy has so emboldened him that he is no longer content
to merely exercise his power in the present, it is necessary that his
influence extend indefinitely into the future, shaping the landscape of
the neighborhood to his wealthy desires for generations to come.
How could he ever relate to Garfield? A rich bohemian, a white yuppie who
didn't even have to go through the trouble of working for his money.
But certainly, he knows what's best for Garfield. If strength of reason
fails him, his daddy's money makes him right.
It has recently come to our attention that there are people who have
maintained a distance from our space because they feel unwelcome. These
concerns are not unfounded. We never intended to reproduce problematic
relations through our activity, be it hostile behavior or patriarchal
dynamics, unfortunately, this is an area where we still need to improve.
Naturally, all of the reservations about involvement in the space aren't
contained in any single issue. Before we laid a hammer to the first nail
we indicated that we had no desire to create a space that promoted the
existence of anarchism as a subculture. We didn't intend to simply create
another hang out for young white kids to play mandolins or blow on jugs.
It is true that we do occasionally host events that cater to certain
subcultures (hip-hop, graffiti, etc.), subcultures that are by no means
associated with anarchism. We are interested in situations where
subculture can expand anarchism, not further isolate it. People from all
subcultures are always welcome at the space, however, we stated that we
were not interested in hosting events that have no relation to social
struggle yet somehow become conflated with anarchism due to a subcultural
What some of us experienced in the anti-police struggle of Oakland,
California, the riots of Toledo, Ohio, and the recent insurrection in
Greece indicated to us that the moment of revolutionary conflict
transcends the division separating the radical from the rest of society, a
division that we currently seek to destroy through our daily activity.
In the anarchist movement in La Paz, Bolivia and the autonomous
communities of southern Mexico we saw the development of genuine
relationships, the creation of alliances that, through the destruction of
separations, forged formidable revolutionary affinities.
When genuine conflict is reduced to subcultural ritual, it becomes
isolated, inaccessible, and ultimately marginalized by capital. This
stance, which we believed wouldn't be terribly contentious, seems to have
been met with an, at times, hostile response from certain
This wasn't our desire. Perhaps our stance has been misunderstood.
Make no mistake, I have no doubt that, at times, certain members of GPAC
have made inappropriate remarks about people due to their style of dress
or subculture. This problem has been addressed, however, it's apparent
that it needs to be revisited. None of us have any interest in engaging
in some dumbass battle between the norms and the punks, the hardcore kids
and the crusties, the soc's and the greasers or anything nearly that
idiotic. For the most part, people have understood this, but there have
been unfortunate exceptions.
Despite the disagreements, the debates, the naturally occurring
differences arising from political discourse, we have always been there
for those who find themselves experiencing the brunt of repression.
When Landslide was threatened with eviction, we were there. When POG
needed muscle, we were there. When local graffiti writers found
themselves facing incarceration, we were there. We have supported
anti-fascists when they went to jail for taking literally the concept of
fighting oppression. When the Merton Center was in a dangerous situation,
we threw a block party and raised over $1000 to help it stay open. We
opened our homes to strangers when they were released from jail. Members
of our group have been involved in virtually every radical project in the
city of Pittsburgh, from Book 'Em to Food Not Bombs to the Big Idea to
We offered our full support to Chris Boette before unforeseen and
unfortunate circumstances forced us to, for our own safety, take a step
Make no mistake, we stand by our severed ties. I won't use this time
to debate the morality concerning the merits of informing a Federal Grand
Jury of the illegal activities of anarchists. Arguments concerning the
subject have gotten us nowhere. The conversation is too subjective. Our
primary reason for distancing ourselves from Chris doesn't depend as much
on whether his actions were right or wrong or how terrible a predicament
he found himself in, but is born from a need to, in very real terms,
maintain the safety of our friends.
The same anarchists who might, in a different context, discuss the merits
of maintaining “safe spaces” where no one says anything to hurt their
feelings haven't seen a problem with hosting events with a known informant
Recent events have made it apparent that the state is engaging in a
dedicated assault against anarchists. The first of this month saw federal
agents kicking in the door of some trusted friends, spending 16 hours
sifting through personal items and removing everything they could get
their hands on. Another friend was subpoenaed to a Federal Grand Jury
last week. A member of GPAC sat in jail for 3 weeks after the G20, with
allegations against him surfacing on media sources across the country.
We are no longer playing children's games.
We never intended for our space to alienate people, but if they refuse to
respect our choice to take seriously the safety of our friends, or go so
far as to indicate that they too would inform on radicals, than we won't
give their departure a second thought.
We built this space so that we could, for once, create something that went
far beyond ourselves and the confines of our group of friends. Take Space
isn't just about GPAC, it is an anarchist social center open to all
forms of struggle against exploitation. The present conflict, then, isn't
between GPAC and James, but between the desire to maintain an always
improving radical center and the intransigent advances of gentrification
in our city.
Take Space is for everyone! It is not simply a space for GPAC, but a
center for all radicals to use to build alliances and increase antagonisms.
So I mean it when I say that we aren't asking you to fight for us. We are
only asking that you fight for yourselves.
Standing now at an impasse, we ask only that you walk with us.
From an old friend,
someone from philly
PS- And if tomorrow finds us without a space, we'll continue to strengthen
relationships and intensify conflicts.