Open Letter to John Zerzan,

anti-bureaucrat of the San Francisco Social Services Employees Union


We were encouraged by the critique of “revolutionaries” which you sent us, but the argument which we had with you last week reminded us that no dialogue is possible with an organizer of the proletariat, so we walked out on you. But you continue to plague us with letters. In one you accuse us of elitism, and in the next call ours “the only political outlook worth talking to,” while asking for our poster.

Revolutionary theory in your hands is only pornography for the titillation of a jaded voyeur. While consuming the theory of revolution, you make it your practice to enlist creative energy in pleadings about bureaucratic inefficiency, which encourage power to reform itself. You willfully contribute to the streamlining of capitalism into a self-adjusting, self-perpetuating mechanism, the cybernetic welfare state.

Your social worker mentality defines the possible, for those who listen, by the charity with which the here and now doles out grievance issues. Your organization is a hierarchy in which benevolent leaders furnish workers with advice and material means for the unlimited protraction, in the form of debate and compromise, of class conflict. Qualitative transformation remains always beyond the horizon. Your game, Zerzan, is to have everyone participate in his own alienation.

The autonomous practice of those who would be masters without slaves strikes you, and every other humanizer of the old world, as elitist. Beyond your bureaucratic worldview, though, is the revolutionary proletarian project, the autonomous struggle of workers for direct power. It is the supersession both of the elitist project, the realization of the select despite the many, and of the Leninist, the seizure of power by a party in the name of the proletariat. And it demands the end of the commodity and of wage-labor.

The workers council has been the highest organizational form of direct democracy created by the proletariat for the expression of its power. That power has been outlined in the proletarian revolutions of this century — Kronstadt 1921, Spain 1936, Hungary 1956. It is power without mediators.


Note: Zerzan confuses us with the Situationist International (P.O. Box 491, NYC). We are an autonomous group in accord with the principle theses of the SI. (Inquiries to: P.O. Box 1044, Berkeley, CA.) With the distribution of this leaflet, our Bureaucratic Comix is being affixed to the union hall wall.

April 1971


150 copies. Distributed at a meeting of the SSEU, a would-be “participatory” labor union of which John Zerzan was one of the enthusiastic leaders.

Later, in a typical reactive flip from one simplistic ideology to another, Zerzan became an ardent anarcho-primitivist ideologue. Here is his review of Public Secrets and here is my reply.