Diggerly Do: Free Store as "Life Acting" and "Create the Condition You Describe"

Digger frame of reference for creating a social movement

The Diggers created a new form of revolutionary action, what they called "life acting" which they introduced in the manifesto Trip Without a Ticket, written in 1966. This pamphlet described the Free Store which the Diggers had invented that Fall in which all goods and services were free of charge. "No owner, no Manager, no employees and no cash-register. A salesman in a free store is a life-actor." In one of the street sheets that were collectively known as the Digger Papers, the concept of life acts was introduced: "Life acts! Acts that can create the condition of life they describe! ... No frozen moments re-enacted for tomorrow's fantasy revolution. Life-acting is freeing eternity in now!"

"Create the Condition You Describe" became the model for Digger events and actions, always looking to "enact tomorrow's fantasy revolution." The Digger concept of life acting is what anarchists would later term "prefigurative politics in which certain political ideals are experimentally actualized in the 'here and now' rather than hoped to be realized in the distant future." [van de Sande 2013] The anarchist theoretician David Graeber argues that "these new tactics are perfectly in accord with the general anarchistic inspiration of the movement, which is less about seizing state power than about exposing, delegitimizing and dismantling mechanisms of rule while winning ever-larger spaces of autonomy from it. ... Their ideology, then, is immanent in the anti-authoritarian principles that underlie their practice..." [Graeber, "The New Anarchists," 2002, emphasis added]

The Digger practice of "life acting" would become the prefigurative politics of 21st century anarchism. 

Peter discusses Create The Condition You Describe
Peter Berg in the 1998 interview by Celine Deransart and Alice Gaillard for the film Les Diggers de San Francisco.
The Mime Troupe Studio in 1966
Peter in a theatre workshop at the San Francisco Mime Troupe studio in 1966. He wrote and acted in many of the Troupe productions from 1965 to 1967. In October, 1966, he wrote Trip Without A Ticket, published as an anonymous Digger manifesto.  

"Free Store Rap" from Trip Without A Ticket (as narrated by Peter Berg from the film Les Diggers de San Francisco, English version)

This two-minute video clip opens with Peter reading from Trip Without A Ticket then discussing the concepts of life acting and "Create the Condition You Describe"

Transcription of Peter's comments. (I had asked if anyone would be interested in transcribing this clip, and lo the same day within a few hours, one of the Digger angels sent me the following:)

[Reading an excerpt from Trip Without A Ticket:]

The Diggers are hip to property. Everything is free, do your own thing. Human beings are the means of exchange. Food, machines, clothing, materials, shelter and props are simply there. Stuff. A perfect dispenser would be an open Automat on the street. Locks are time-consuming. Combinations are clocks.

So a store of goods or clinic or restaurant that is free becomes a social art form. Ticketless theater. Out of money and control.

Diggers assume free stores to liberate human nature. First free the space, goods and services. Let theories of economics follow social facts. Once a free store is assumed, human wanting and giving, needing and taking, become wide open to improvisation.

A sign: If Someone Asks to See the Manager Tell Him He's the Manager.


A basket labeled Free Money.

No owner, no Manager, no employees and no cash-register. A salesman in a free store is a life-actor.

[End of reading from excerpt]

And it hit me…thclik, oiiiinnnggggg [strikes forehead]...you know, this is life acting...is you create the condition you describe, and if we’re lucky, the condition lasts for a long time. And if it isn’t, well at least we tried. And there were people that didn’t get it. I mean there were people that you would give Free Money to, and they wouldn’t get it. Or sometimes social critics said we were Robin Hoods, that we were taking from the rich and giving to the poor. That isn’t what we were doing. I mean we got things from all sorts of sources, and that was 'magical'. But, what we did with it, was to create a theatre that described everything being Free, hoping that that would lead to a social movement.



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