Letters of Detergents (from John Zerzan)Posted by Gardens of Resistance
Early on in the Insurgent Summer project, we asked John Zerzan to contribute a description of his personal interactions with Fredy Perlman and his thoughts on Letters of Insurgents. We’re pleased here to share his letter, transcribed below.
“Fredy’s kind response to a TELOS article I’d written (about anti-work and the disciplinary role of unions) was our first point of contact. I think that this was 1974. He was already writing Letters, I believe, and I’d like to think that my piece may have had a slight influence on the book.
“It was Fredy who told me of 5th Estate, the Detroit periodical which is still publishing and was about to become a uniquely valuable source of ideas relatively new to the U.S. Camatte, for example, and Perlman himself. Our correspondence began in the mid-70’s but I only spent time with him once. In 1976 he and Lorraine visited San Francisco where I lived at the time. We spent a wonderful couple of days together. My first visit to Detroit, by the way, was over twenty years away, well after Fredy’s death from heart valve failure.
“To me a remarkable thing about his work – one of many, to be sure – is that virtually every book has its own style. Letters certainly has its voice. More important is how that big fat book has held up. Over a third of a century later it seems to me as freshly insightful as ever. Only Against His-story, Against Leviathan rivals its importance in my estimation.
“I see the Left as the biggest obstacle to real change. Colossal in its failure, but insidious in its gatekeeper function. Letters breaks down all the ways there are to be “radical” without being so, and thus is extremely timely.
“Upon its appearance Fredy insisted that the letters were real, that Yarostan and Sophie were not fictional characters. His Detroit friends, I recall, made it clear how little credulity that claim had and in riposte would sometimes refer to the book as Letters of Detergents.”
- John Zerzan, May 2010