portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article announcements portland metro

arts and culture | bikes/transportation | community building

Anarchist Postal Service needs messengers!

The Anarchist Postal Service is looking for couriers to join in the fun! We're not-for-profit and non-hierarchical. Like biking? Like Mutual Aid? Check us out!
Official seal of the Unofficial messengers-
Official seal of the Unofficial messengers-
The Anarchist Postal Service is a new group that's looking for help. Essentially we need volunteers to operate, specifically those with bikes. If you've always wanted to be a messenger but didn't like the idea of running packages for big sleazy businesses, or if you're just looking to help people out, our organization might be just the thing for you! We'll be getting together for meetings and various events once we have a real membership.

The service itself will not be able to take many requests until it has more than a couple members, so check us out, and get involved!

Contact our secretary, Ack, for more info, and be sure to check out the website!

homepage: homepage: http://www.AnarchistPS.tk

add a comment on this article

don't stamps cost 37 cents ? 10.Feb.2005 14:00


Umm...perhaps updating the website to include the correct price for capitalist stamps would be a good first move before anyone will take your group for anything more than a bunch of goofballs.

Your website states :

Who wants to pay 36 cents for a USPS stamp, when you can have mail and small packages delivered anywhere in Portland by the "Unofficial Messengers of Free Communication"?

The basic USPS fist class stamp costs 37 cents.

Stamp prices? Who cares. 10.Feb.2005 14:28

Typos are inevitable.

I really hope this project works out for everyone in Portland. This is the essence of anarchism and I wish other similar project would sprout so people could begin to see that we can take care of each other. Remember- to make is sustainable you will need some sort of return on your effort- and that can mean anything from trading people for other services or holding occasional fundraisers to keep up maintenance on bikes. Awesome idea, kudos to all of you.

This is a wonderful idea. 10.Feb.2005 14:59


Especial for delivery of communications between activist organizations. It would drive homeland security crazy to not have access to such communications.

I might just spread this idea elsewhere.

sustainable? 10.Feb.2005 15:14

White Lilac

I think this is a great idea--best thing I've heard all week.

My concern is that it isn't sustainable. 37 cents is damn hard to beat. What we need to make this work is for people who use the service to contribute something back to these messengers--food, work, goods, etc. The website says that donations are accepted ... but is that going to really sustain this effort?

Maybe we could tie this to a local currency of some sort?  http://www.smallisbeautiful.org/frameset_local_currencies.html

i.e. the system isn't 'free'--if you want to send a letter you have to 'pay' in some way to enable the messengers to continue this service.

a currency wouldn't be necessary but it seems like it's the easiest way to avoid the arbitrariness of saying 'I'll deliver this stack of letters for X amount of food' or 'installing linux on my computer' or 'weeding my carrot patch.'

Other things I've noticed: a guarantee of timeliness/reliability would inspire some confidence in this, and also you might want to reconsider your package limits. You only mention length and height, whereas all three dimensions would eliminate confusion. 12 inches long won't let you be able to deliver A-size copy that ad agencies/pre-press folks like to use ... but maybe they're not your target customers anyway.


But the Post Office Rocks! 10.Feb.2005 15:24

DJ Shadow

The Anarchist Postal Service sounds great, but let's not bash the Post Office too much. You may not like it, but check this out: the Post Office is one of the last good public services in this country that delivers universal service at an incredibly cheap price, is highly unionized, and is on Bush's privatization chopping block.

This is from the Letter Carriers' Union website:
"The USPS is organized to operate as a non-profit enterprise. Its financial mandate is to break even over time."  http://www.nalc.org/postal/perform/selfsufficient.html#selfsufficient
Doesn't sound too evil a capitalist venture to me. They don't make a lot of money delvering those letters out to the boonies for 37 cents (something I doubt the Anarchist Messenger Service could do, and something the private enterprises will stop doing in the name of profits).

Please work hard on setting up this new service, but please don't do George Bush's work of trashing good public services in the name of privatization.

P.S. Be nice to your fellow workers, comrades 10.Feb.2005 15:34

DJ Shadow

You may think they are cranky, and maybe they don't have your amazing politics, but it's still not cool to trash your fellow workers:

from the Anarchist Postal Service website:
"We are also tired of the cranky mail men and women of the USPS."

been done before 10.Feb.2005 16:00

nobody in particular

In densely populated urban areas this is definitely possible to do. I remember seeing a special on a DC courier service waaaay back in the late 70s or early 80s where cyclists were delivering mail for cheaper than the PO, and much faster, to boot. I was just a kid back then but I thought it was really cool. Door to door delivery is great, especially for businesses. The down side? It's against the law to leave the packages in folk's mail boxes.

 http://www.dccourier.com/ This is not the same one covered on 60 Minutes unless the nature of their service has changed.

good idea 10.Feb.2005 16:03

a cascadian

I think this is a great idea that could expand in time as a means of educating the masses of structural or institutional violence.

this folking rocks 10.Feb.2005 16:42

felix el gato

this is awsome I want to volinteer and help it sounds like fun! ack you're my hero!

Hey Ack: 10.Feb.2005 17:31


Tia Carrere: "This is a nice anarchist postal service..."
Dolph Lundgren (playing the role of Ack): "I built it."

- from Showdown in Little Beirut, starring Dolph Lundgren & Brandon Lee

W3rd 10.Feb.2005 18:06


This is going to rock if we can all get together and make it work.

I have since sent Ack a message, and hopefully will be out there delivering letters/packages next week...

*sits by computer and waits for reply*

what a novel concept 10.Feb.2005 18:38


i would love to help out. if only i weren't so young... let's hope this can get off the ground and stay there until i'm out of school.

Anarchist Ostrich 10.Feb.2005 19:47

roger in seattle

I generally agree that .37 cents is hard to beat. On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin was able to set up a system that ran at 5 cents a letter....What I really wanted to mention however, was that a few years ago (at Left Bank Books where I was a collective member), we were sent a little zine with a patch of an anarchist ostrich (it had black and white stripes and a black star on its chest). The idea was that anyone could wear the patch and deliver mail and thus be part of the anarchist mail system.

novel idea 10.Feb.2005 20:00


Lying near him was an old anarchist paper with an handstruck image of the post horn. ...

The Crying of Lot 49

Sorry about the typo 10.Feb.2005 21:42


I'll be changing it soon. I apologize to any offended USPS workers... I've had BAD experiences with every one of them. Oh well.
Essentially I'm doing this because I need some fun ASIDE from the work I do.
(I would also like to see this group stay neutral in an oh-so divided "community")

Fun is necessary. 'If I can't ride my bike to this revolution, I want no part of it!' If others want to charge for their services, their welcome to. I'm fine doing it for free :)

Personally, I don't see this taking over the USPS anytime SOON, (though building infrastructure for dual power is a really good idea!) it's just a nice thing to do in general- especially the simplicity of it all.

Thanks for all the feedback!

Ack (the secretary)

P.S. word.

yeah, fun 10.Feb.2005 22:59

x-bike messenger

if you feel everything in life should be fun this is the job for you. i did it for 2 years or somewhat, delivering to the high floor monopolies all over portland... excuse me while i puke. yeah, i was a corporate whore, working for translave, but hey i was having fun, riding around town like a jedi... or was i? so now im thinking... i got nothing better to do (bike messenger?), right? wrong. this is not anarchy. am i wrong? enlighten me please. nobody knows what is in the packages except the one who recieves the package and the one who sent it. wake up beirut, you dont know who you are working for.

when you can tell an idea is good 11.Feb.2005 01:55

a cascadian

I have noticed that when a good idea is posted or suggested in Portland Indy Media if a "troll" can dismiss it as "boring" or not worth it or even just out right attack writing then that means the idea is outstanding. Reading the comment of "yawn" to me indicates this idea hits a major sore spot for those who wish to keep the system as it is. So instead of addressing such dismisive comments I think we should go head long into Anarchist Postal Service! Obviously it is needed. This can also be a great means to spread news that normally does not get to the more technically minded. Infact last night as I tried to open Portland Indy there seemed to be a problem (I believe the server or something) and I was thinking in case someone tried to shut down this forum we should have alternative means of communications.. well the Anarchist Postal Service could partially serve as that back up.

agreed 11.Feb.2005 02:11

municipal libertarian

I've noticed the same trend "a cascadian". Taking government and corporations out of their positions of control and replacing them with individuals from the community is one of the surest paths to true democracy. And let's face it, democracy is exciting and sexy as hell and that's why it scares a lot of people. Those who were truly bored wouldn't take the time to bother posting now would they. ;)

other cool ideas with this 11.Feb.2005 02:47


With such a service a mutual system of exchange could come about with co-ops, cafes and other local busnesses in which the messangers would get food, coffee, bike repairs and a myriad of other forms of thanks. The old idea of community bikes could also feed into this. Though I am economically broke right now (thanks to Mr Bush's various economic and administrative policies) I would recommend that those with spare change donate for bike locks and repairs. When I get a chance I will try to donate either some money or even help for this cause.

I like the idea of indy-postage, but don't forget... 11.Feb.2005 09:58


While far from perfect, the US Postal Service is one of this nation's most socialist industries, running on a non-profit basis. True, not all the workers are super-congenial, and they do deliver a bunch of 3rd- and 4th-class junk mail, but for distance mail it would be hard to beat them, at least by much.

Anarchist-style postage would probably work on the truly local level, with one or two or three legs to be covered by bikers. Provided we could find a way to do it at least somewhat legally I think it's worth giving it a shot. I mean, why should we pay the same amount to deliver a letter 5 miles as to deliver it 1500? It makes sense to have local postage available for far less if not free (maybe 5 cents?)

But for longer distances, that's when you need a more organized system. Which is what the USPS does, and not badly at that.

This is already happening... 11.Feb.2005 10:38


Wow. So much commentary over a PROPOSAL! This is great.

But let's not forget: this is already happening. Folks in Latin America ask people to bring them stuff all the time. Free is the assumed price. In October '04, I witnessed the most beautiful thing. A friend who was visiting from El Salvador met a Salvadoran jornalero at 6th and Burnside. The guy said that his family was forced out of their home cuz they were paving a highway through the neighborhood. He had lost all contact with them. My friend returned with a letter from him and searched out the his family's new home...which, as you can imagine, was not easy. As a result, the man is now in touch with his family after 2 1/2 years of no communication.

If that's not random mutual aid, I don't know what is.

Me and some friends just took down a bunch of radio equipment for some pirate radio in Mexico and Guatemala, though we had close to nothing to do with the installation of the stuff. The equipment is now in the hands of people who asked for it and it is up and functioning (www.radioinsurgente.org)

so here's what I have to add to the discussion:
1) Postal Service employees are cool. They are totally overworked and if you let them know that you understand, they will be cool to you FOR LIFE!

2) The APS is already happening in quiet ways. There's no reason to invent anything new, just tap into what is already going on.

3) What if we put a package delivery section on craigslist??

Great idea 11.Feb.2005 11:41

Norris scrub@corrupt.net

Since the November election I've been thinking a lot about alternatives to our mainstream systems which can simultaneously reduce our footprint ecologically and socially, and create a safety net for when the mainstream systems crash. This is a great example: bike delivery while building more community and personal contacts. With peak oil expected in about two years, non-automotive delivery systems will soon be crucial and it'd be very helpful to have something like this developed enough to step into the gap.

I've emailed Ack about helping out on the tech side, and might volunteer for deliveries too!

Someone mentioned using a local currency, which I think would also be great, but getting a local currency going that's widespread enough to be useful is a big project in and of itself! Something I've been excited about for years and have been thinking about a lot, but haven't committed myself to yet...

Am I missing something? why was this featured? 11.Feb.2005 13:03


I don't want to be a troll or a party-pooper but am I missing something?

You're trying to find people to help deliver mail and postage for free, right? I can see how that would be sort of fun, and save folks some pocket change, but beyond that what's the point?

I don't see how this is improving or changing the world in any significant way. If you want to ride around town delivering people's stuff that's cool with me, I just don't see how it's news or activism, or why it's been featured on this site.

Just looking thru today's features/ news on indymedia...you could be using your free time to:

1. Fight the eviction of Tryon Life Community Farm in SW Portland
2. Educate your neighbors about the horrific prison sentence received by Lynne Stewart
3. Talk to people about the effects of ageism within our society
4. Work to support Laughing Horse books
5. Help stop old-growth logging on in the Siskiyous
6. Volunteer with Connect the Dots and the Women's Crisis Support Team
7. Work to change local election laws to take out big business

or a 1000 other pursuits. I guess I just feel there are more pressing things in the world than delivering letters for free -- in the scheme of things, the USPS isn't really high on my list of oppresive institutions that have got to be challenged.

Shit, you could be volunteering at a homeless shelter, and help someone who can't afford the phone or computer to contact you to deliver their letters.

If this was a cooperative business endevour it would make more sense to me; it'd be great to provide an opportunity to have more folks making a living in a non-heiarchical manner. But if it's not that, it sounds like more of a quirky personal hobby than an "anarchist" endevour.

If it's just for kicks and fun and to expand your social life that's cool, but unless I'm missing something, I don't see why this is newsworthy, certainly not feature worthy. It'd about as newsworthy as me having a party at my house with my anarchist friends: sure it would be anarchist related, but it's not doing anything to promote anarchism.

Is this activism promoting a different lifestyle, or just a lifestyle masquerading as activism?

It's just concerns me that the forests are falling, people are getting thrown in jail, iraqis are getting shot by bullets we pay for, activists are getting evicted from their homes, and we're talking about how great it would be to mail letters for free.

Sorry if this sounds really harsh, and please school me if I'm missing something completely...

hey and this is safer too 11.Feb.2005 13:20


just imagine if local political orginizations could start sending out anouncements useing the aps! so many groups rely on internet listserves this could be a great way to orginize meetings withount any chance of big brother listening in! we all know they read every e-mail list serve and I wouldnt put it past them to go through our ground mail too. I agree the existing postal service is cool but something about sending out group anouncments through a government postal service makes me nervous. This will be great ! it just seems like much more secure way of comunicating!

hey you are missing something 11.Feb.2005 13:46


Am I missing something? why was this featured?

"forests are falling" and the government is tapping eco-defenders homes "people are getting thrown in jail" because the government reads your mail. you are missing something. the anarchist postal service is what it says it is. a way for us to comunicate freely withount the government spying on us. any political group could utilize this for more safer newsletters, a safer alternitive to the listserve. and yeah its totaly fucking newsworthy its not only about free mail its also about mail thats free from spooks. why is it that when some one trys to provide food its revoultionary and when you try to provided comunication its not? I know food is more important but diffrent people have diffrent skills. from each according to their ability and to each acording to their need. some folks have gardens and other things while other folks just have bikes. let them use them to help you out

Re: Am I missing something? why was this featured? 11.Feb.2005 15:00

A Cascadian

Ok here is one think you are maybe missing: an Anarchist Postal Service can be used to unite these such things:

1. Fight the eviction of Tryon Life Community Farm in SW Portland
2. Educate your neighbors about the horrific prison sentence received by Lynne Stewart
3. Talk to people about the effects of ageism within our society
4. Work to support Laughing Horse books
5. Help stop old-growth logging on in the Siskiyous
6. Volunteer with Connect the Dots and the Women's Crisis Support Team
7. Work to change local election laws to take out big business

These local issues have much in common, namely a struggle against social injustice. An Anarchist Postal Service could serve as the means to unite the community in what seems to be a myriad of issues. Anarchist Postal Service could be the glue or even a less monitored communication system.

this was featured... 11.Feb.2005 17:27


because the Indymedia people thought it was cool. I don't know why anyone would read into it more than that. We appriciate the media (though we didn't specificaly ask for it)... this really isn't a BIG deal. Or we didn't intend it to be...

Thanks again! We are currently thinking of having a general orientation meeting sometime next week, either at PSU or one of P-towns various Pizza parlors/coffee shops.

further thoughts 12.Feb.2005 13:40

from the author of "am I missing something?"

I hear what you saying, that this would allow for securer email, and would help build community between groups, but i just don't think that the benefits "A Cascadian", "mark", and "Ack" suggest hold much water.

Going under the assumption the feds are monitoring everything: If you are needing to communicate about something that really, really shouldn't be overheard by the authorities, what could be *more* suspicuous then to be calling or emailing this service to do something for you? Then the authorities would have a very, very strong reason to suspect that the carrier has extremely sensitive information. Legally speaking, the likelyhood of all involved parties being charged with Felony conspiracy charges becomes much more viable.

If I'm that worried about security you better believe I'm gonna take car of it in person, by myself. I'd feel slighty less secure (but way less secure than I would using the APS, giving my ultra secure information to someone I hardly know, that would be an excellent moving targets for the police to nab) using PGP encrypted emails. While use of PGP is a red flag to anyone monitoring your email, at the very least the authorities don't appear to have any means of decrypting them.

Similiarly, if this service is primarily for services of this sort it shouldn't be advertising itself publicly, especially for the solicitation of new carriers. Since we're talking about security here, what better thing for the police to infilitrate than a service especially designed to take sensitive information?

As far as the community building aspects, let's get real: community isn't really built by mail correspondence -- why would I be mailing someone I don't even know? Typically, you meet someone first, you get to know them, probably in person, than you send them non-personal correspondance. Mail exists because of community, not the other way around.

Sure the mail delivery people will be building their personal social network, but that isn't the point, right? If your point is to build social networks and inroads between these distinct projects that's awesome, but this happens by getting people who don't know each other to meet face to face, not via mail.

This being said, "erin's" comments do raise an interesting possibility -- how about a deliver service that posts annoucements about upcoming events to everyone along various routes for distribution: more of a focus on "bulk mail" service than a person-to-person service. That'd be far more purposeful in my mind. Security would not be very viable, as one would assume anyone could sign up to be on the route, but for spreading-the-word it'd be great! You could also offer your biking / delivery services to publications like the Portland Alliance...

Anyhow, I do agree with the "from each according to their ability and to each acording to their need. some folks have gardens and other things while other folks just have bikes" sentiment mark expressed. But I also believe that -- given the whole impending apocolypse and all -- that we need to push ourselves just a little outside of our comfort zones sometimes.

The ideology mark (paraphrasing K. Marx) suggests, when not carefully considered, can be a slippery slope to a the good-ole-american individualist consumerism. The "to each according to their need" part is easily forgotten, and I guess I'm disputing that a significant need exists, as the project is currently proposed. There is nothing inherently radical about saying "I'm doing it because I like it and it makes me happy". Any mall shopper can justify their shopping experience with that line of reasoning just as easily as tree-sitter, a volutneer at a homeless shelter, or a critical mass biker.

I'm not trying to compare this to mall shopping, I'm just saying people should check their motivations: is this just fun that barely serves a purpose, or is this both highly purposeful and fun? Is it really that your only ability is to do this, or is it just that it sounds more fun and easy than cultivating other abilities that you have?

If bikes are your deal, how about working to make critical mass what it once was in this town, working for more bikers rights, etc.?

Regardless, I don't want to be a sourpuss and especially don't want to discourage people into inaction. It's (obviously) your project, not mine and I hope the feedback doesn't make anyone feel bitter.

I just want to encourage motivated, inspired, and creative people like yourselves into actions that are effective: Best of luck to whatever endevours you take on!

importance 12.Feb.2005 22:01


Building alternatives to the current government and corporate structures is perhaps the most important thing one can do to return this country to the hands of the people in their communities. But just because it's important work, perhaps in some way the most important work, doesn't mean it can't be fun.

APS first meeting! 13.Feb.2005 14:55


Hey all, the Anarchist Postal Service will have its first official meeting (general orientation) at It's A Beautiful Pizza, 3342 SE Belmont, this Friday night, at 5:30.

The meeting will be open to anyone who wants to participate, and the agenda will center around getting things up and running, covering logistics, concerns, membership, etc.

This should prove to be a most interesting project, and I look forward to helping get it started!

Thanks again for everyone who has voiced their opinion, and I hope it continues-

LIVE your anarchy! 13.Feb.2005 17:10


If you want to make the messenger service more meaningful than today's routine alienation, organize and create this excellent idea by living your desires now. That is, get in touch with that which makes mutual cooperation meaningful (by brainstorming, etc.), and implement such in radical ways.

So, imagine if people "paid" by giving foot massages.

Go WILD with it!

Web hosting? 14.Feb.2005 00:16


Why is this web site hosted on Angelfire - a web host that puts tacky ads all over web pages?

Distributed networks 14.Feb.2005 12:37

from seattle

When I was interested in starting an APS in Seattle, I noticed that there are a lot of people doing work in computer science these days on distributed networks that would be valuable to organizing a postal service in a decentralized manner. While only loosely applicable, a lot of computer networks are good for ideas, especially  http://mute-net.sourceforge.net/ which put a lot of thought into theory.

When I was designing the postal system, I thought it would be useful to make sations, each of which would have some bins for sorting by destination from that location, then the bins would be transported by someone who was going to do the trip anyway, like say someone who goes to the same job every day, and generally they would be transported bidirectionally. So each "leg" from one station to another would have a single mail carrier who would do the trip more or less every day, and you would try to make legs as long as possible. That way 1) you could figure out who exactly carried your mail if you wanted to, 2) redundency would be preserved to a high degree, and 3) the longest it would take to deliver a message is 1 day per leg, but most likely a half day per leg. If legs are sufficiently long, average mail delivery time ~ 2-3 days? (3-5 legs per route sounds reasonable to me)

Just a heads up that you might want to talk to your local computer scientist -- they have probably solved this problem already.

re hosting 15.Feb.2005 09:48


You find a place that provides free hosting without any ad banners, you let all of us know, aight?

re distributed networks 15.Feb.2005 09:59


Yeah, and I was thinking that if you cut the region into triangles, and had a station at each point, then each package could have one of three directions in which it needed to travel. Each station would work as a router, tagging forwarding information onto each packet - er - package, and individuals would be responsible for taking care of a certaing traingle.

Hosting 15.Feb.2005 17:36

N.S. atomkinder67@gmail.com

I'll host the site, no ads whatsoever (except maybe for Veloshop and maybe a link to Food Fight). I don't have a whole lot of space, but I figure I might as well use it since it comes with my cable...

Help aid the privatization of the postal service! 15.Feb.2005 17:54

Professor Herr Brained

This is brilliant, lets attack one of the fastest, cheapest and fair wage government programs that work in the world. As the USPS is under attack from "Brown" and FedEX we can feel good in knowing that we "anarchists" are building "community" by showing how little faith we have in a system that actually works. Hey lets start our own garbage collection service too! Saddle up pony express!

add a comment on this article