Incite, Conspire, Diversify: A Conversation with Filler PGH

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The following interview from Cutting Class is the second in a series of with anarchist student groups on campus.

Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing pieces to highlight the work of some of the groups participating in the Cutting Class counterinfo network. We hope this will provide some clarity on where our crews are coming from and how that affects the way we have organized this project.

We also hope that these interview questions can provide a template for other autonomous groups to distill a collective understanding of their context and projects. If your crew finds these questions useful, write up a summary of your conversations and send them our way as a form of introduction! Cutting Class can be your platform, and we’d love to publish an interview with your crew and start collaborating—not just around CC but also with any other projects that these introductions might incite!

Today’s featured crew is the Filler collective from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Posted CuttCuttCCCutCutting Class: Introduce your crew, what are some projects you working on, how long have you been around, where are you based, etc etc.

Filler PGH is a zine distro and counter-info crew currently based in Pittsburgh. We’re basically just an informal collective of punks and writers who run a distro and claim the name Filler whenever it’s convenient.

Filler started in 2012 as a punk/hardcore fanzine, but has since grown into a platform for local anarchist scenes to share news, analysis, and other counterinfo. We write, design, and distro our own zines, and we usually table with cool zines from other projects too. You can visit our pdf archive and read or print our zines here. Our three most widely-distributed zines are The Relevance of Max Stirner to Anarcho-Communists, Destroy Gender, and For a University Against Itself.

Most of us currently go to / have graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, and so a lot of the content we get is affiliated with the autonomous student network and other youth crews. That being said, we’ve been actively trying to make the project relevant/useful for anarchists outside of the campus bubble.

The current crew of Filler kids are also individually involved with other local projects: The Big Idea Infoshop, Nightshade, and the Steel City Autonomous Movement infrastructure crew. Oh, and one of us is an admin of Post-Left Memes: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Monsieur Dupont.

The Big Idea is an anarchist collective that provides space for exploring radical ideas and putting them into action. The collective aims to foster a culture of resistance and mutual aid that celebrates individual and collective autonomy. Plus we have coffee and free wifi.

SCAM is a relatively new project that grew out of conversations between individuals from the Big Idea collective and the (now-defunct) Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition. SCAM is not an organization, it’s just the name for a specific (1) autonomous forum, (2) social media platform, and (3) anarchist network – meaning that anyone who participates can use the SCAM “brand” to suit their own project’s purposes. The forum uses a spokescouncil model that’s meant to be a space of encounter to encourage mutual aid and coordination, and is in no way a decision-making body.

Nightshade is a twoyearold anarcha-feminist collective dedicated to providing physical, digital, and written safer spaces for women and queer people, as well as engaging in direct action against the heteropatriarchy. Nightshade collective members hold monthly meetings and at least one community event per month. This month, Nightshade is hosting a benefit party to raise money for Survived and Punished—a collective that supports people wrongfully incarcerated for protecting themselves against domestic abuse. Not all community events are parties. Last month, Nightshade hosted two events—a reading of “The Secret Joy of Accountability” by Shannon Perez-Darby from the zine-turned-book, “The Revolution Starts at Home” and a facilitated discussion called ’Let’s Talk About Sex… Work’ to initiate conversations about sex work from a feminist perspective.

Cutting Class: What are some challenges you’ve faced (internal or external)?

Pittsburgh anarchyland is currently recovering from some serious repression and burnout. Over a year of consistent militant actions resulted in ~30 felony arrests. Two comrades served several months in prison (hit us up if you want to throw some $$$olidarity their way) and a few more are still tied up in legal battles. By the summer of 2017, state repression dovetailed with existing internal tensions, and the subsequent burnout was real.

In the coming weeks, Filler will be publishing a longer piece(s) about this through several projects, including Cutting Class. Here’s an *ahem* exclusive sneak peak:

“2018 marks five years since the resurgence of an autonomous radical youth movement at Pitt, three years since the Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition officially began flying black flags, two years since the organizations and crews affiliated with the autonomous student scene posed a real collective challenge to the populist-left’s monopoly on dissent, and over one year since the first coordinated Disorientation Week.

That first Disorientation Week sparked the brief and brilliant dumpster fire we refer to as “the” autonomous youth scene: a transient (yet genuine) expression of a collective “we.” At times, it felt like it was our first real glimpse of community, militancy, trust, repression, betrayal, and (attempted) accountability. It’s a declaration of “we” that weighs a bit heavy on the tongue these days.

Ten black blocs, 30-something arrests, and over a hundred felony charges later, it’s difficult to remove ourselves from the collective identity that “we” have developed over the past years’ struggles. The “we” used here is shorthand for the web of chance encounters that deepened as the autonomous youth scene grew. Filler most definitely cannot speak to the experiences of everyone in Pittsburgh’s autonomous youth scene. Consider this our contribution to a growing mythology of closure, a burial ritual for our own lingering nostalgia, a call for multiplicity.”

This resurgence in the local anarchist scene has broken down both social bubbles and social scenes. We’ve learned that we need more than the usual cycle of escalation and repression if we wanna rep the yinzurrection. We’d like to think that projects like SCAM and Nightshade (especially the second issue of their zine) reflect a broader learning curve in the Pittsburgh youth scene. To quote “PSSC is a SCAM”:

“[PSSC] originally began collaborating because we were sick of wasting our time seeking legitimacy through the dead-end channels provided by the Pitt administration and their police. But as much as we liked to position ourselves as inhabiting a space somewhere outside of Campus Life and its toxic social institutions and useless reformist activism, we now realize that we were merely carving out niche spaces within it […] Despite our best intentions, PSSC became an umbrella organization that assimilated (and sapped energy away from) the independent formations that comprised it. And so rather than continue to work together as a student coalition, we decided to re-prioritize our individual projects, crews, and organizations.”

Photo: autonomous youth bloc turning up on election night on Pitt’s campus.
Read the report-back HERE.

Cutting Class: What are some short and long-term objectives your crew has been working towards?

Counterinformation is communication, and communication is an end in itself. We’re not going to save the world (not that there’s anything about this civilization worth “saving”), but we might be able teach each other how to survive through the love and rage that grows in resisting it.

Cutting Class: What do you think some of the major limits / major untapped possibilities for radical campus organizing are today?

Over the years, Filler has provided a platform for a variety of student voices. The only way to honestly discuss that question is to include them in the convo. We’ve compiled a selection of quotes from some of our personal favorite pieces below, which are divided into three broader themes:

  • Seizing and Repurposing University Space
  • The “Marketplace of Ideas” and Social War
  • Solidarity is a Weapon

TL;DR = There’s no unified “lesson” to take away, but one recurring thread is that students who work through the University framework end up compromising their politics. We have seen one too many radical organizations get recuperated after becoming / affiliating with University-sanctioned organizations. While organizing through the University can provide material benefits (beyond just funding and space), we think student crews should dedicate most of their organizing efforts to autonomous projects that operate outside the established University channels.

Cutting Class: How can folks support your work?

Submit content, distro our zines, critique our zines, talk shit on/with us, email us your juicy intel, give us money – fillercollective [at] riseup [dot] net

Submit to the spectacle and follow us on social media:

instagram, twitter, facebook.

Cutting Class: Any closing thoughts / reflections from your crew’s conversation?

When we first came to Pitt, we had to reinvent the wheel when it came to spreading anarchy, and we made a fuckton of mistakes along the way. We’re stoked to be connecting with other youth projects, and honestly should have tried to sooner. We’re also stoked to hash out some ideas around intergenerational infrastructure and communication, because there’s always the possibility that Oryx and Crank accurately depicts the whole “no global future” collapse: the University is both a gatekeeper to the means of survival and an enemy as formidable as the state, and will be for the rest of the forseeable futures / protracted collapse.

And never forget that cringing is an effective bond, because maybe the real insurrection was the friends we made along the way 😉

With Love and Rage,
– some Filler kids


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