VOLUME 1 - NUMBER 1 - SPRING 79
Qui nos rodunt, confudantor
It is perhaps bad form to begin a new magazine with an apology, but as coordinating editor for this issue of Black Rose it is my duty to so begin. We had hoped to have a group statement to serve as an introduction to the magazine. After several futile attempts we gave up, and decided instead to have the coordinating editor for each issue (it is a revolving position) introduce that issue as he or she sees fit. Thus, although these editor's statements will in a sense reflect the group, since each editor will be obviously a member of the group, in essence each statement will be the personal statement of that particular editor. There will be no group statement. Hence the apology.
But the apology demands an apology. In fact, the series of editor's statement will give the reader a better understanding of the group over time than a group statement would, especially when considered in the context of the type of articles published. The character of the group will become more apparent, which is in many ways more significant than allegiance to a series of stated principles. But this does not mean that the Black Rose group has no previous history, or "prehistory," and that the magazine springs forth full-blown like a conspiracy from the mind of Bakunin. In fact the Black Rose first made its appearance in the States some six or so years ago on the campus of a minor northeastern university to which its founders were then tenuously, but tenaciously, attached. This university connection greatly affected the character of the group at the time, as it was snide and very ideological. As its influence increased, and as more people came to be part of the group, the idea of putting out a magazine was raised. An editorial group was formed and two issues of a magazine called Black Rose were published about four years ago, issues which are now collector's items, before the editorial group parted mutual company.
The Black Rose, however, was always more than the Black Rose. At the time there were de facto two groups with only one or two individuals belonging to both: the magazine group and the nebulous "wider group." This latter was more the "real" Black Rose and continued after the collapse of the first magazine.
The Black Rose, aside from the usual work in the neighborhoods,unions, and co-ops, made its presence felt in the Boston area, especially in leftist circles, by issuing a number of memorable leaflets, characterized by often unintelligible jargon and precocious, provocative graphics, and by a lively, irreverent spirit. Members also collaborated on a newsletter called Black Circles, which enjoyed a well deserved notoriety in certain obscure circles.
But the group really took on its solid form with the decision to begin the Black Rose Lecture Series, now five years old. At the time the group was greatly dissatisfied with oppositional politics and ideology and wanted to introduce a new voice into the area in a public and accessible way. Not being marxist-hyphens we decided that ideas were very important, and thus initiated what the Real Paper has correctly identified as the "prestigious Black Rose Lecture Series."
The Lecture Series had, and has, as its purpose the introduction of new approaches and ideas to the issues of our age, and a re-examination of past understandings from a relevatory or critical perspective. The group felt, and feels, that it was more important to provoke discourse rather than to take a "line"; to examine and gently exhort rather than dogmatize and berate.
Ideally, the purpose of the Lecture Series will be both broadened and continued in the magazine. In publishing Black Rose we as a group will most likely not take positions, but rather present provocative articles on a variety of topics not normally considered in so-called "political" journals. Indeed, we in no way wish to be like the usual "political" journal. We are not an anarchist, marxist, or socialist organization, though we draw from and are sympathetic to many elements of each of these creeds, because each of these designations are really labels, carrying along with them an intellectual baggage of prefabricated positions and automatic behavior.
The space which ought to be provided by the refusal to be labeled should allow the magazine to approach things in a freer and more exploratory vein. It is nothing to be dissatisfied with contemporary society. It seems almost everyone is and such dissatisfaction is respectable, even allowed for. But more important is the more critical sense of dissatisfaction which brings under scrutiny the more radical critiques of society, especially those critiques inherited from the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century, namely marxism, socialism, and anarchism. These critiques -:are powerful, exposing failures of society in a merciless and compelling manner. Because they reflect to some degree what actually happens, they have a powerful hold on our minds and mold our thought in subtle ways, of which one becomes aware only with difficulty. Yet these critiques are flawed and incomplete, as even their more thoughtful adherents will admit, and a current of thought has arisen which seeks to redevelop and recreate a truly radical critique of contemporary society and which recognizes that the old ways of looking at things are possibly the greatest barriers to coming to grips with the problems of our age. It is with this current that I feel the magazine should flow.
Why should we celebrate
The past more than the present? It is not to ring the bell backward Nor is it an incantation
To stifle the spectre of a Rose. We cannot revive old factions We cannot restore old policies Or follow an antique drum.
These ideas, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed Accept the constitution of silence And are folded in a single party
Whatever we inherit from these ancestors
We must take with critical eye
What comes from what they left us?-a symbol:
A Rose that blooms on a grave.
(with apologies to T.S. Eliot)
This current of analysis threatens the usual boundaries of political and social thought. Originally radical political thought sought to overcome a series of tensions and situations in which humanity had trapped itself. It sought to elucidate the interactions between the individual and the institution, the social and the personal, the subjective and the objective, which were part of the root of the highly visible and pressing problems of exploitation and domination. This was done to clarify and elucidate, with the idea that lasting social progress was more likely the deeper the understanding of the problem. Unfortunately the project was never carriedthrough, the elucidation has ended in an obscurantist Jargon, and the same divisions continue to haunt the contemporary social edifice.
Political and social thought continues in the main to follow the path of "objective" analysis. Notwithstanding the fact that these analyses and the "objective" approach are valuable, perhaps the most telling insights into the problems and nature of our age are coming from what could be broadly designated as the area of fiction: literature and "the arts"- music, painting, theater, etc. In the words of Shelley:
Poets (fiction in general, editor) are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not: the trumpets which sing to battle and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the acknowledged legislators of the world.
To integrate "objective" analysis with the insights of fiction would be, I feet, an important step in the resolution of the tensions mentioned above, by more accurately identifying the individual as the focal ground in which these distinct but inseparable tensions are located and "resolved."
Such an understanding would also throw new light on the serious problem of freedom and organization, which the industrial age has resolved more and more in the direction of organization. There can be no freedom without social organization, but it is quite another thing to assert that "anarchism is organization" or to spout the usual marxist and liberal platitudes about the need for powerful and active state apparatus. In fact it is questionable to what degree the classical approaches to organization are today viable vehicles for social change.
It might seem from what has been said so far that Black Rose will be another fancy theoretical or literary magazine. Welt Black Rose will contain theory and literature, but we are well aware that the problems of our age are existential ones and that life will always be bigger and different from talk about life. And if you re-read my presentation, l think you will find that it is perhaps an argument, but hardly of the usual leftist or political sort. For one thing I haven't once mentioned alienation, depression, or the proletariat and for another it is written in generally understandable English. What we hope to provide is a wide variety of approaches and comments on things, and to present things as reasonably and as understandably as we can.
This is not to say that everything we print will be perfectly clear and readily understood, though that is obviously something to strive for. The current within which the magazine flows is far from being settled or fully defined. The attempt to come up with a new social critique will mean a deal of confusion and uncertainty, and proper forms of expression will be hard won.
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish.
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering
Always assail them.
(with no apologies, Eliot)
A radical critique ought to be always more than a set of principles and theories. It ought to be a way of life and have a flavor of its own, readily identifiable, an elan. We are fully aware that we hope to achieve a great deal. And we are fully aware of our own limitations. There are, we feel, a lot of people who, for their own reasons, think and feel somewhat similar to how we think and feel. Ideally, somehow, we hope that Black Rose can become a means of developing that genuine counter-culture which any truly radical critique must be if it is to be a truly radical critique.
These, then, are some of my thoughts about Black Rose. A lot of what say is in agreement with what the others in the group say; and a lot of it is not. But this disagreement is what will enrich the undertaking, and as long as we can keep our sense of humor and keep widening our contacts and perspectives, it should be alright. We hope you will join us for the ride.
- Huckleberry Hess