Fredy Perlman

Fredy Perlman (August 20, 1934 – July 26, 1985) was a Czech-born, naturalized American author, publisher, professor, and activist. His most popular work, the book Against His-Story, Against Leviathan ! , Details the rise of state domination with a retelling of history through the Hobbesian metaphor of the Leviathan . The book remains a major source of inspiration for anti-civilization perspectives in contemporary anarchism . Though Perlman detested ideology and would claim that it would respond to him, he would respond to the question of his work, his work both as an author and as a publisher has been very influential on modern anarchist thought .

Childhood and youth

Perlman was born in Brno , Czechoslovakia . He emigrated with parents to Cochabamba , Bolivia in 1938 just ahead of the Nazi takeover . The Perlman family came to the United Statesin 1945 and finally settled in Lakeside Park, Kentucky .

In 1952 he attended Morehead State College in Kentucky and then UCLA from 1953-55. Perlman Was on the staff of The Daily Bruin , the school newspaper. When the university administration interfered with the election process, Perlman and other staff left and published an independent paper, The Observer, which they distributed at the edge of campus. [1]

In 1956-59 he attended Columbia University , Lorraine Nybakken, where he met his lifelong companion and future wife. He is enrolled as a student of English literature in the field of political science and European literature. One particularly influential teacher for this time was C. Wright Mills .

Travel and study

Plunder , a play by Fredy Perlman. Artwork credited to John Ricklefs .

In late 1959, Perlman and his wife took a cross-country motor scooter trip, mostly on two-lane highways traveling at 25 miles per hour. From 1959 to 1963, they lived on the lower east side of Manhattan while Perlman worked on a statistical analysis of the world’s resources with John Ricklefs . They participated in anti-bomb and pacifist activities with the Living Theaterand others. Perlman was arrested after a sit-down in Times Square in the fall of 1961. He became the printer for the Living Theater and during that time wrote The New Freedom, Corporate Capitalism and a play, Plunder , which he published himself.

In 1963, the husband and wife left the US and moved to Belgrade , Yugoslavia after living in Copenhagen and Paris. Perlman received a master’s degree in economics and a PhD at the University of Belgrade ‘s Law School ; his dissertation was titled “Conditions for the Development of a Backward Region,” which created an outrage among some members of the faculty. During his last year in Yugoslavia, he was a member of the Planning Institute for Kosovo and Metohija .

Professional life

During 1966-69 the couple lived in Kalamazoo , Michigan . Perlman taught social science courses at Western Michigan University and created outrage among some members of the faculty when they had their own classes and rank themselves. During His First year in Kalamazoo, he and Miloš Samardžija , one de son professors from Belgrade, translated Isaac Illych Rubin ‘s Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value . Perlman wrote an introduction to the book: “An Essay on Commodity Fetishism.”

In May 1968, after lecturing for two weeks in Turin, Italy , Perlman went to Paris on the last train of the day before that they were sweeping Western Europe that season. He participated in the May in Paris and worked at the Censier Center with the Citroen factory committee. After returning to Kalamazoo in August, he collaborated with Roger Gregoire in Writing Worker-Student Action Committees, May 68 .

During his last year in Kalamazoo, Perlman had left the university and several other people, mostly students, inaugurated the Black and Red magazine, of which six issues appeared. Typing and layout was done at the Perlman house and the Radical Education Project in Ann Arbor, Michigan . In January 1969 Perlman completed The Reproduction of Daily Life . While traveling in Europe in the spring of 1969, he spent several weeks in Yugoslavia and wrote Revolt in Socialist Yugoslavia, which was suppressed by the authorities, who called it a CIA plot.

In August 1969 he and his wife Moved to Detroit, Where he wrote The Incoherence of the Intellectual and with others translated Guy Debord ‘s The Society of the Spectacle .

Industrial Workers of the World union label by Perlman for Black & Red.

In 1970 Perlman was one of a large group that set the Detroit Printing Co-op with equipment from Chicago. For the next decade, Black & Red publications were printed there, with countless other projects ranging from leaflets to newspapers to books. For several years, Perlman and the cooperative were members of the Industrial Workers of the World . [2]

Between 1971 and 1976 he Worked On Several books, originals as well as translations, Including Manual for Revolutionary Leaders , Letters of Insurgents , Peter Arshinov ‘s History of the Makhnovist Movement , Volin ‘s The Unknown Revolution , and Jacques Camatte ‘s The Wandering of Humanity .

Letters of Insurgents was written by Perlman in the form of letters between two Eastern European comrades, one of whom had escaped to the West. It presents critical anti-authoritarian perspectives on life in the democratic so-called West and the so-called communist East during the era of the cold war. Perlman spent most of his life in North America, but he lived, worked and developed friendships in Yugoslavia over three years spent there. The form of letter exchange enables the writer to present the experiences and thoughts of several individuals.

Also during the 1970s, Perlman started playing the cello, often in chamber music sessions twice a week. In 1971 he and his wife traveled to Alaska by car.

In 1976 Perlman underwent surgery to replace a damaged heart valve. After, he helped write and perform Who’s Zerelli? a play criticizing the authoritarian aspects of the medical establishment.

During 1977-80 he studied (and charted) world history. During these years, he traveled to Turkey, Egypt, Europe and the US to visit historic sites with Lorraine. In 1980 he began a comprehensive history of The Strait (Detroit and surroundings). He did not finish this work, and the first and last chapters remain unwritten. In July 1985, he estimated that it would take him eight or ten months to complete and edit the manuscript.

Both Perlman and Lorraine helped on the anti-authoritarian magazine, Fifth Estate , doing typesetting and proofreading. His most recent contributions were Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom [3] and The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism .

During 1982-83, he suspended work on the Strait to write his indictment of the society, Against His-Story, Against Leviathan . Anarchist historian John P. Clark states that Against His-tory, Against Leviathan! describes Perlman’s criticism of what he saw as “the millennia-long history of the assault of the megamachine on humanity and the Earth.” Clark also notes the book discusses “anarchistic spiritual movements” such as the Yellow Turban movement in ancient China and the Brethren of the Free Spirit in Europe. [4]

In 1983, Perlman joined the cello section of the Dearborn Orchestra and in June 1985 performed quartets by Mozart and Schumann at a program for Physicians for Social Responsibility.

In 1984 Perlman wrote a work on the subject of nationalism called The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism [5] In it he argues that “Leftist or revolutionary nationalists insist that their nationalism has nothing in common with the nationalism of fascists and national socialists, that theirs is a nationalism of the oppressed, which it offers as cultural liberation. ” [5] And so “to challenge these claims, and to see them in a context,” [5] he asks “what nationalism is – not only the new revolutionary nationalism but also the old conservative one.” [5]And so he concludes that nationalism is an aid to capitalist control of nature and people of its origin. Nationalism thus provides that “Every oppressed population can become a nation, a negative photographic of the oppressor nation” and that “There is no reason for the descendants of the persecuted to remain persecuted”. Near and distant relative of victims can become a racist nation-state; they may themselves be concentrated in other camps, may they be themselves, perpetrates genocidal war against them, procure preliminary capital by expropriating them. ” [5]

During 1985, Perlman wrote two essays on Nathaniel Hawthorne , who Perlman regarded – along with Hawthorne’s contemporaries Thoreau and Melville – as a critic of technology and imperialism . [6]

On July 26, 1985, Perlman underwent heart surgery at Henry Ford Hospital, where he died.

In 1989, his widow Lorraine Perlman published a biography of Fredy, Having Little, Being Much on the Press They Founded, Black & Red. Lorraine Perlman continues to run in Detroit, Michigan and still contributes to Fifth Estate .

Selected publications

  • Fredy Perlman (1962), Plunder , New York: Living Theater
  • “Essay on Commodity Fetishism”. Telos 6 (Fall 1970). New York: Telos Press.
  • “The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism”
    • Sound recording
  • “The Reproduction of Daily Life”
  • Against HIStory! Against Leviathan!
  • Worker-Student Action Committees, France May ’68 with Roger Gregoire
  • Manual for Revolutionary Leaders
  • Manual for Revolutionary Leaders Second Edition Including The Sources of Velli’s Thoughts (Black & Red, Detroit, 1974)
  • “Ten Theses on the Proliferation of Egocrats”
  • “Obituary for Paul Baran”
  • “The Machine Against the Garden: Two Essays on American Literature and Culture”
  • “Chicago, 1968”
  • “Anything can happen”
  • Illyria Street Township 1979 (AudioPlay)
  • Illyria Street Township 1979 (Playscript on The Anarchist Library)

See also

  • Original Affluent Society
  • Situationist International
  • David Watson (anarchist)
  • John Zerzan

Further reading

  • Having Little, Being Much: A Chronicle of Fredy Perlman Fifty Years by Lorraine Perlman
  • Max Cockroach, “The Dragons of Brno: Fredy Perlman Against History’s Leviathan”. Fifth Estate # 347, Spring, 1996 Review of Fredy Perlman, Against His-Story, Against Leviathan
  • Social Insecurity, “No Compromise with Nationalism”. Fifth Estate # 325, Spring 1987. Translation by Fredy Perlman’s The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism
  • Artnoose, “Love & Letters of Insurgents”. Fifth Estate # 392, Fall / Winter, 2014 Review of Letters of Insurgents by Sophia Nachalo and Yarostan Vocheck, as told by Fredy Perlman
  • Unruhlee, “Reading Letters of Insurgents 34 Years After Its Publication”. Fifth Estate # 383 Summer 2010
  • Carleton S. Gholz, “Fifth at 40 Detroit Radical Rag Celebrates Its Ruby Anniversary”. Detroit Metro Times, August 10, 2005 Includes discussion of Fredy Perlman’s contribution to the Fifth Estate newspaper’s history


  1. Jump up^ Garrigues, George. “Epilogue (1956 and After)” . Loud Bark and Curious Eyes: A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955 . Archived from the original on October 7, 2007 . Retrieved October 20, 2009 .
  2. Jump up^ Perlman, Lorraine (1989). “Chapter 8: Detroit”. Having Little, Being Much: A Chronicle of Fredy Perlman’s Fifty Years . Detroit, Michigan: Black & Red. p. 60 . Retrieved 9 September 2013 . Once the Printing Co-op was established, Fredy and many other participants became members of the IWW; for several years A union ‘bug’ which incorporated the IWW emblem was designed by Fredy for Printing Co-op. It read, ‘Abolish the State. Abolish Wage Labor. ‘
  3. Jump up^ Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom by Fredy Perlman
  4. Jump up^ John P. Clark, “Anarchism” inEncyclopedia of Religion and Nature, edited byBron Taylor; New York: Continuum, 2008, pp.49-56. ISBN 978-1-84706-273-4
  5. ^ Jump up to:e The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism by Fredy Perlman
  6. Jump up^ Having Little, Being Much

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