August 26th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

Here’s something I haven’t seen in a while. A new print zine. Eight photocopied pages, issued at an attempted regular frequency.

Even the content within it parties like it’s 1999.

It’s called Tides of Flame: a Seattle anarchist paper. Four issues have been produced so far.

Its slogan is “joy — freedom — rebellion.”

The joy promoted here is principally the joy of busting stuff up and calling it a political act. Yep, we’re back with the flashiest (and, to me, the least important) aspect of the ol’ WTO protest, the dudes who confused destructive hedonism with revolution.

Particularly in the first issue, which starts out with a photo of a shattered and tagged window at the Broadway American Apparel store. This occurred as part of a “direct action” episode earlier this summer during gay pride week. The zine describes it as “an unpermitted dance party” staged by “uncontrollable elements within the queer and anarchist circles.”

Why did they hate American Apparel, which puts gay rights slogans in its ads? Because the company’s been “endorsing the legalization and normalization of queers…. Clearly, the attackers had no intention of being either legal or normal that night.”

The first issue also contains a well-composed ode to the contradictions of urban “alt” culture. (Even if the essay starts by referring to “the useless phallus of the Space Needle.” Anyone who looked at its curves and angles can see it’s a feminine symbol!)

Other issues defend the prolific grafitti artist Zeb and promote “fare dodging” (riding buses but refusing to pay).

But mostly they’re against things. Cops. Prisons. Bureaucrats. Banks and the economic elite (an admittedly easy target). Urban gentrification. “Cutesy street art.” Wide swaths of modern society in general.

As with most U.S. “radical” movements built on the wild-oat-sowing of young white people, the Tides of Flame zine and its makers give emphatic simple answers to questions about the outside world, but raise unaddressed questions about their own program.

Can they reach out to make coalitions beyond their own subcultural “tribe”?

Have they got any ideas for building a better world, beyond just smashing this one?

At least there’s a sign the zine’s makers are asking some of these questions among themselves.

That sign is the zine’s regular “Forgotten History” section, recounting past radical actions in the city and region, including the Seattle General Strike of 1919.

(There’s more of this recovered history at the site Radical Seattle Remembers.)

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