Worrying about what is televised is not yet the revolution. (apologies to Gil Scott Heron)
Photographs. The pictures we see of the wounded and dead from Lebanon deserve close brave attention (never looking away) not only because they still have affective purchase and really do provoke outrage and anger but also because they produce so much frustration and despair. To use these pictures to call for petition signatures or to gather people to a demo is not their best purpose, even when for some, or most, they are so specifically deployed. These pictures also undermine any lingering attachments to or illuions in (if there still were any) figures like Condoleeza Rice, Bush, Bliar, and to democracy, civilization, justice, sanity, safety. All very necessary to note, but hardly all that new. So maybe what is still needed – in the face of cold hard staring, shock, tears, rage, is the persistent articulation of a project to build a political alternative which can work here – and not the false alternative scorched-earth war-crimes adventures of Israel, Rice and Blair, but the alternative of a communist future radically different from the death from the sky we see on television and internet every day now. This is why Lenin is relevant, why State and Revolution should be reread and why despair in the face of these horrific pictures is only the first stumble that must be followed by further quick steps that – we can still hope – will someday gain us some balance. Worrying about what is televised is not yet the revolution.
Get to the demonstration at 5pm today at Downing Street:
[END THE ATTACKS ON LEBANON & GAZA •END BLAIR'S SUPPORT FOR BUSH'S WARS London Protest Friday 28 July 5pm to 7pm Downing Street, Whitehall, SW1].
The trouble with the affective call of the photograph or video report of the scene of horror is that to sign petitions, attend a demo or give to charity is still a step in-line. None of these ethically-applauded gestures are sufficiently disruptive of capital to avoid seamless editing back into the commercial programming that is televisual War. What I am more interested in are those organizations that have managed painstakingly to recruit and educate a constituency that sustains such a disruptive critique of capital in and though struggle. The programme of education and the ethical charge of such groups deserves our support and our participation, and if must needs be, long hours of study at the very least. I am interested to know how, despite seemingly over whelming attacks, have the Maoists in Nepal, the Naxalites in India or the New Peoples Army in the Philippines organized for success.
What is it that Leftist education has that is not there in other alternatives – I am thinking of the rote learning, recitation and other dullities that, at least usually, ideally, are not part of the critical countenance of the Marxist cadre (clearly I am excluding a kind of clichéd Trotskyite fanatic here, who reads off simplified political diagnostic from the condescending pages of the Socialist Worker). That a critical education is part of the Leninist or Maoist party is not always guaranteed is probably true – there are many possible examples – but there are some – even within the SWP for sure – that sustain and cherish this kind of education work, and it is sustained over vast stretches of time and against all sorts of odds. Especially so I think in some places more than others, in my experience, which is confined to a few small groups of ‘former’ Naxalites in Kolkata, a few meetings with members of the NPA, and connections with Malaysian comrades that still inspire, even when sometimes enamoured with other kinds of (art, literature, law) projects. I learnt much from such education and leave it to others to learn themselves alongside if that is possible – indeed, it continues to structure even my vane attempt to turn interests in culture in London towards a global politics rather than a culture industry cash-in (though often at Goldsmiths the latter looks more likely – and that Saatchi, Murdoch or Unilever will employ the best minds – the managing director of Unilever once told me ‘john, teach them the most critical Marx you can, we do not want to employ yes men, we want thinkers’… eeek. So the task is to teach critical thinking and to learn alongside, but also to organise an employment other than for Unilever, Murdoch or Saatchi. Ideally maybe also other than Goldsmiths inc).
Sorry. But I just can’t do that straight routine academic serious role-play anymore today. Course I do not have a better option and I do not want to be president of the world of the party, but there seems no justification for passively watching my flat screen tv, even with ‘informed’ critical liberal concern, while Lebanon, Iraq are soon Iran are refashioned into Greater Texas. And I don’t want to write a research application about it.
Texas. Sure, Greater Texas has been in trouble for a while, ‘darnit, we jus’ can’t get them Iraqis to lay down dead’ either. And though going to the demos over years and years has not dinted a single cell in the barren stalk that is Bush’s war-mongering brain, and his Bliar glove puppet (not puppy – enough poodle jokes, that just makes the killer look cute) still clings on to his sub-commander post in worse shape than ever, its still the case that we have not managed to stand up yet. I still believe we should and can, even in London, by-passed withered heart of the old Empire… My day is unravelling at the thought of what might happen if the United Nations were instead United Communists and the anti-war demo was not just a long walk to the park… Someone said tonight maybe more than a stumble is needed…
Can you believe Janis Joplin was also from Texas. How is that plausible?
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”