An Anti-Authoritarian New Year

The wall calendar vs. the state.


Autonomedia's Calendar of Jubilee Saints, by James Koehnline and the Autonomedia Collective, Autonomedia, 32 pages, $9.95.

Autonomedia has published many anti-authoritarian books over the past two decades, but none is as original or remarkable as its annual Calendar of Jubilee Saints. Measuring 17″ across and 11″ high, thus opening to 22″ high if you hang it on your wall, it is at once a month-by-month calendar, a work of book art, and a repository of useful critical information.

In every well-designed two-page spread for each month of the year is a box for every day of that month. Within each box is first a thumbnail photo or drawn portrait (usually by Seattle's James Koehnline) of someone dead who should be remembered by anti-authoritarians, broadly defined. For examples, consider from the end of this coming year: 24 December, Claudia Jones (a Trinidadian feminist and black nationalist—a name new to me); 25 December, Jesus of Nazareth (not new to me, but identified here as a "persecuted leader of an underground liberation movement"); 26 December, Cornelius Castoriadius (a Greek-French anti-statist philosopher); 27 December, Julien Benda (a French critic, especially of "intellectuals"); 28 December, Guy Debord (a French Situtationist agitator); 29 December, Sheikh Anta Diop (an African historian); 30 December, Victor Serge (an anti-Stalinist novelist and activist); 31 December, John Wycliffe (a 14th-Century religious dissident).

As these samples suggest, the political/cultural taste informing the selections for each date is eclectic, erudite, and discriminating. Along the calendar's margins is further information about each date. For 25 December, for instance: "1621—Massachusetts halts all sinful game-playing, confiscates children's toys. 1924—Twilight Zone creator Rod Sterling born, Binghamton, New York. 1989—Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausecu executed."

Only rarely would I excommunicate a selection, thinking that better choices must exist for days assigned to, say, Karl Marx (at least Lenin doesn't make it here), the arts patron Mabel Dodge Luhan, the literary scholar Edward Said, the experimental novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet, the leftist biologist Stephen Jay Gould, and the Marxist writers Antonio Gramsci and Paul Sweezy. Weigh these duds against perhaps 10 times as many whom you're pleased to see included, including many names previously unfamiliar, and you begin to appreciate the intelligence and literacy behind this heaven's gatekeepers. (The "anarchists" at Autonomedia wouldn't agree, but I'd add Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman to the roster.)

The calendar also includes advertisements of Autonomedia's conventionally sized books (including—full diclosure—some of mine) and a single-page knock-out stylish preface: "And since we have missed proper celebrations for most of the last millennium, we are proclaiming a Grand Jubilee—just maybe, here at the end of History, one crafted to last forever." It continues, "Steal back your own and every other life from the forces of freed and immiseration! Toss that monkeywrench! Throw that OFF switch. Hit that DELETE key! Join the Work-Resistor's League! Workers of the World, Untie! Get out NOW! Just say no! And leave no child behind!"

Under each saint's puss is a blank box in which you can write in some notes for each day or, as the preface advises, "If you are less than completely enthused with our choice for some day…go ahead and paste in your own Saint." The principle of choosing your own saint for the pantheon suggests a Catholic sensibility turned libertarian.

As the cover of this 21st calendar proclaims, "Every day a Holiday!" as indeed it should be in the libertarian millennium. I also recommend trying to find the 20 previous editions of the calendar and saving them, as I have done. As book art of a sort, they are at once very readable and quite beautiful; they will be treasured.