NY #2: Interference Archive/Effective Action Against Violent Attacks on Business

On Thursday we went to the Interference Archive in Brooklyn. It's a collection of cultural material produced by social movements.

We met Josh MacPhee - one of the 'core collective' who run the archive - and he told us how it started (from his personal collection, and the collection of Dara Greenwald), how they run it (on a tiny budget, with volunteers who are mainly archivists in other, bigger institutions and are dissatisfied with the way those larger archives are run), and why it was so cold in there (the heating got turned off last week when the weather turned warm, and now it's snowing again).

That's the top of Jon's hat and lots of boxes.

Josh happened to mention a pamphlet they'd been given called Effective Action against violent attacks on business, produced by the Californian State Chamber of Commerce after students from University of California at Santa Barbara burned down a branch of Bank of America in Isla Vista in 1970.

It's a really fascinating piece of history. As Josh said, propaganda used to reinforce the status quo rarely wants to be seen as propaganda, so it's good that someone thought to pass it on to the archive.

I've scanned the pamphlet below, and then below that there are some transcribed quotes from the main body of the text.

There's a couple of weird things about the pamphlet. One is that all the inset quotes in a larger typeface are from American figures of the left in support of the revolution.

'If America Doesn't come around we're going to burn America down.'
'As long as an act is revolutionary it cannot be regarded as a crime.'
'The students who burned the Bank of America in Santa Barbara may have done more for the environment than all the teach-ins put together.'

I guess they were meant to scare people, but it means that the dominant voices in the pamphlet are those of the revolutionary left, which is probably something of a misjudgement in propaganda terms.

The other thing is that although it was produced as a resource for businesses wanting to prevent attacks or demonstrations, the language used in the pamphlet is heavily influenced by the socialist politics that they describe. For instance, the word terrorism doesn't appear once in the whole pamphlet. The student groups are described as revolutionaries or movements. And though the pamphlet makes jokes at the expense of the groups ('There seems to be a revolutionary group for every three letter combination of the alphabet'), it also takes their aims and ideals seriously. It's hard to remember there was a time when socialist revolution was seen as a real possibility/threat, by the left or the right.


'Understandably, a businessman is absorbed in his immediate interests. However there are times when he will be faced with the hard decision of whether or not to temporarily and voluntarily modify his traditional standard of profit and loss in the light of more overriding, long-range considerations of national interest.'

'The businessman has every right to combat the organized campaigns of radical elements. At the same time he should ask himself some pertinent questions regarding his relationship with his fellow man. [...] Is there a tendency to take advantaged of the less privileged when selling to them the necessities of life such as food, shelter, clothing and health care? [...] In short, is business doing all it can within its capabilities, to serve the needs of society as well as the needs of business?'

'Our society is held together by a mutual, though often unstated, agreement to work together through a system of law, order, justice and human relationships, even to the point of forsaking self-interest at times.'

'Lasting solutions needed to turn the energies of destruction into meaningful programs for progress will; have to be explored continuously by all concerned business leaders. The task is one of changing attitudes. It must begin with the attitudes of business itself.'

'Even the new womens' rights movements and the Gay Liberation Front (homosexuals) have added their voices to the battle cry.'

'The goal should be to support our country, recognize its faults and work together to improve it. We must convince our young people that change can be made, working within the framework of our present free society. We must show them what participatory democracy is all about.'