Congratulations from Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker

Recently we received a Congratulatory note from Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker  Writers of the book “The Many Headed Hydra”. The name of the book shop and some of the work of the Bristol Radical History Group was inspired by this book so we are very pleased to have his support. Please read on…

23 November 2011

Dear Hydra Books,

Congratulations on the opening of “Hydra Books.”

You are answering the cowardly, nocturnal destruction of “the People’s Library” of more than 5,000 volumes last week, a repository of knowledge gathered by the Occupy Wall Street assembly at Zuccotti Park.  Among those volumes were Marcus’s “The Slave Ship”, Peter’s “Magna Carta Manifesto”, and our joint book, “The Many-Headed Hydra”.  Mayor Bloomberg of New York, ordered this destruction.Merely a mean squirt with a billion bucks, he certainly coordinated his order with Wall Street and the White House.

At first one likened the destruction at Zuccotti Park to the burning of the books in Germany in 1933.The German burning inspired a comrade of 1968 to place at the site of the Nazi’s hideous deed a plaque with Heinrich Heine’s words, written in 1821,

… wo man Bücher verbrennt,

Verbrennt man

Auch am Ende Menschen.

which roughly means, ‘where man starts by burning books he ends up by burning people.’  There is a distance, of course, between the gasses of the holocausts and the burning of pepper spray but it is a distance that is upon a similar chemical continuum and it shares the fear of ideas.

The opening of your bookshop and café asserts the difference between 1933 and 2011.Though the plutocrats are leagued with the war-mongers they are no longer organized as national and social capital; they, and we, are world-wide.

The books at Zuccotti Park were hauled away in dumpsters belonging to the sanitation department. The pretext of the destruction was “cleaning” the park which, the Mayor said, was filled with “filth”.This is the rhetoric of Mein Kampf. But no one is deceived.These acts are deliberate attempts to destroy the movement against neo-liberalism and the many “yesses,” the many ideas, of that movement.

It is a sign of our times as surely as the deliberate destruction of the antiquities and national library of Baghdad.  In the case of Mesopotamia the books held the knowledge of the first cities of human history; in the case of Zuccotti Park the knowledge was surely of the next cities of human history.

The idea that we are not “respecters of persons,” or privilege, is an idea whose modern origin, you know, is found in your city. Nowadays the 1% expect all the respect, as if money conferred it, while we, the 99%, are degraded and devalued.  Our wealth is not filthy lucre.Our wealth consists of ideas, it consists of our books, it consists of our prefiguring relations with one another.Our wealth consists of our assemblies where the “people’s microphone” returns to the Greek etymology of the assembly, the ecclesia, which meant to “call out.”

The Occupation of Wall Street tended towards a unity of action and talk, because the action of occupation created the assembly where speaking out and speaking up could transpire.The resulting discourse creates knowledge.Both practice and books join vigorously in dialogue.Only together can our future come to pass.Hence, our enemies need to repress our deeds and our ideas.

Within a few hours, as doubtless you know, the call went out again and people re-gathered to re-constitute the movement to occupy Wall Street. Among the signs was one which surely is a call-out to you, for it stated “Arrest one of us; two more appear. You can’t arrest an idea!”   Ideas are not “absolutely dead things,” as Milton said (Areopagitica 1644), “they are as lively, as vigorously productive as those fabulous dragon’s teeth, and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.”  He was writing in the midst of civil war; we may say that we are armed with books and with ideas.Our occupations, up and down and everywhere, embody them.

Like the Hydra’s head, where one is lopped off, many others return.

Congratulations to Hydra Books!!


Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker

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