Monthly Archives: October 2010

Baby Elephant V Crocodile v Bernard Stiegler

‘A grazing animal, for example, a stag (a forest herbivore …) is vigilant at the same time that it grazes, first with regard to he possible proximity of predators; it can, moreover, even while grazing and protecting itself, also protect its young, as well as its grazing mate, who is herself protecting her young’ (Stiegler 2009/2010:78).

- I am worried that Bernard has only found the bourgeois family reproduced in the Bambi forest scenario, but this is also an opportunity to note that the disturbing picture in The Guardian today of the baby elephant versus the crocodile had a moral narrative – the herd of elephants together made sufficient noise to fend off the croc. For once, perhaps despite itself, The Guardian offers up something noteworthy about popular resistance.

All for the Winner 1.10.10 6PM

Film Screening: “All for the Winner” (Hong Kong, 1990) Dir. Jeffrey Lau and Corey Yuen – Monday 6pm 1st November 2010
Best known internationally for films like “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Shaolin Soccer,” Hong Kong comedien Stephen Chow first gained recognition for “All for the Winner,” a parody of Chow Yun-Fat’s “God of Gamblers. Mainland Chinese, Sing (Stephen Chow) arrives in Hong Kong looking for his Uncle Tat, a gambler who soon discovers Sing’s supernatural ability to see through objects and uses it to their advantage, in climbing up the ranks in a gambling world competition.



Cinema Typhoon: All for the Winner (Doh Sing) 

Monday  18:00
Small Cinema, RHB, Goldsmiths. All Welcome

Browne’s plans will drive whole fields of knowledge into decline


Browne’s plans will drive whole fields of knowledge into decline

The Guardian, Friday 22 October 2010

The Browne report on higher education funding and student finance is wide of the mark in every respect (Universities: Shock at big cuts in teaching budgets, 21 October). The proposal to scrap the present tuition fee limit of £3,290 in favour of potentially unlimited fees set by universities themselves will load future generations of students with unacceptable levels of debt in order to pursue the democratic right of higher education. Those who benefited from a free, publicly funded, higher education should not tell future generations that they must now take on mortgage-sized debts to pay for the same privilege. We cannot begin to see how this arrangement could possibly be “progressive and fair”.

Second, the proposal to cut the teaching grant distributed to English universities by £3.2bn, with a 100% reduction for the artshumanitiesand social sciences, is a disaster for higher education, culture and the economy. The Browne report in effect proposes the privatisation of the arts, humanities and social sciences in England. It recommends that the state should no longer have any investment in these areas and that individuals should pay for them. The consequences will be to drive entire fields of knowledge into irreversible decline, leaving the country with one of the lowest public investments in higher education in the industrialised world.

Browne imagines that an unfettered market in tuition fees will free so-called elite universities to compete with the world’s best. On the contrary, if there is no public funding, then there will be no cap on student numbers for institutions. Humanities departments in “elite” universities will only survive by increased student recruitment, serviced at low costs. And what prospect is there that research in the arts, humanities and social sciences will survive the cut in the research budget?

We call on all the vice-chancellors of universities in the UK to voice their implacable opposition to the Browne report. It is their persistent call for increased fees in the past decade that has led Browne and his committee to their short-term, and ideologically driven, conclusions. But Browne does not propose an increase in “top-up fees”, rather the abolition of public funding to entire fields of academic life.

It is time to put aside the myth of “mission groups” that allows ministers to divide and rule the sector; to defend the very idea of the university; and to protect the life chances of future generations of students in England. We urge all academic staff to contribute to the NUS/UCU demonstration in London on 10 November.

Professor Martin McQuillan (Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University)

Sara Ahmed (Professor in Race and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Graham Allen (Professor of Modern English, University College Cork)

Derek Attridge (Professor of English, University of York)

Stephen Barker (Professor of Drama, University of California, Irvine)

Christopher Baugh (Emeritus Professor of Performance and Technology, University of Leeds)

Andrew Benjamin (Professor of Critical Theory and Philosophical Aesthetics, Monash University)

Fred Botting (Professor of English, Kingston University)

Arthur Bradley (Professor of Contemporary Literature and Culture, University of Lancaster)

Ellen Burt (Professor of French, University of California, Irvine)

Michael Bradshaw (Professor of Renaissance Literature, Edge Hill University)

Howard Caygill (Professor of Cultural History, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Bryan Cheyette (Professor of Modern Literature, Reading University)

Hélène Cixous (Emeritus Professor of Women’s Studies, University Paris VIII)

Tom Cohen (Professor of English and Cultural Studies, SUNY, Albany)

Maria Delgado (Professor of Theatre and Screen Arts, Queen Mary, University of London)

Michael Dillon (Emeritus Professor of Politics, University of Lancaster)

Thomas Docherty (Professor of English, University of Warwick)

Alexander Duttmann (Professor of Philosophy and Visual Culture, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Robert Eaglestone (Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London)

Christopher Fynsk (Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Thought, University of Aberdeen)

David Theo Goldberg (Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute)

Peter Hallward (Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University)

Joanna Hodge (Professor of Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University)

Andrew Hussey (Professor and Dean of University of London Paris Institute)

John Hutnyk (Professor of Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London)

David Jackson (Professor of Russian and Scandinavian Art Histories, University of Leeds)

Scott McCracken (Professor of English, Keele University)

Angela McRobbie (Professor of Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Willy Maley (Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of Glasgow)

Peter Nicholls (Professor of English, New York University)

Mandy Merck (Professor of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London)

J Hillis Miller (Distinguished Research Professor Comparative Literature and English, University of California, Irvine)

Simon Morgan Wortham (Professor of English, Kingston University)

Peter Osborne (Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University)

Roger Palmer (The Professor of Fine Art, University of Leeds)

John Protevi, (Professor of French Studies, Louisiana State University)

June Purvis (Emeritus Professor of Women’s and Gender History, Portsmouth University)

Adrian Rifkin (Professor of Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Irit Rogoff (Professor of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Antony Rowland (Professor of Memory Studies, Salford University)

Nicholas Royle (Professor of English, University of Sussex)

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (University Professor and Director of the Centre for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University)

Rei Terada (Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine)

Patricia Waugh (Professor of English Studies, University of Durham)

Zoe Wicomb, (Professor Emeritus, Creative Writing and English, University of Strathclyde)

David Wills (Professor of French and English, SUNY, Albany)

Scott Wilson (Professor of Media and Communications, Kingston University)


Noise of the Past – 29th October 2010

Friday 29th October 2010, 5pm, Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Free Entry to this Session – register with

Organised by Taking Part:


‘Noise of the Past’ – a poetic journey of war, memory and dialogue through
two inter-related works.

Introduction by Nirmal Puwar, Co-Director of Methods Lab, Goldsmiths,
University of London

Post-colonial War Requiem (excerpt from live performance) – Composed
by Francis Silkstone, AHRC Fellow, Dept of Music, Goldsmiths,
University of London

Unravelling (screening) – Directed by Kuldip Powar
(Poet/Screenwriter), with original score by Nitin Sawhney

Q&A with Kuldip Powar, Francis Silkstone, Nirmal Puwar & Sanjay Sharma
Noise of the Past project (principally funded by the Arts & Humanities
Research Council) presents two commissions produced from a creative
‘call-and-response’ method to cast a different light on war, memory
and the art of dialogue. Project Directors: Dr Nirmal Puwar
(Goldsmiths, Univ. of London) & Dr Sanjay Sharma (Brunel University).

Unravelling (2008, 17 mins) is the result of a unique film-making
process, creatively working with poetry, archive materials, visual art
and music. Internationally acclaimed Nitin Sawhney composed a new
score in response to an original inter-generational poetic dialogue in
Urdu between Sawarn Singh, a WWII Indian soldier who fought for the
British in Burma, the Middle East and Africa, before moving to the UK,
and his grandson, Kuldip Powar.  Through poetic motifs a sensory
experience emerges, both evocative and haunting, inviting us to
explore our own ambivalences towards collective and personal stories
of war.

Post-Colonial War Requiem (2008) also drew upon the inter-generational
poetic dialogue as the source of inspiration for Francis Silkstone,
who produced a new composition performed with moving musicians.
Benjamin Britten’s original ‘War Requiem’ inaugurated the newly-built
Coventry Cathedral in 1962, offering Remembrance without militarism.
Though consciously inclusive, it did not reference the contributions
of the (former) colonies.
Further Details on Project:

Directions to Southbank Centre:

Higher Education Demo 10.11.10 – I think we’d do well to surround Westminster for a month and cut off supply.

For details of the Nov 10 demonstration on the Con-Dem Higher Education cuts see:

And this letter below from Goldsmiths saying, pretty much, all out for the demonstration – the logistics of how to get the 6000 visitors to the Goldsmiths Open Day down to Downing Street to rattle Cameron’s cage is, of course, still to be worked out.

The Warden held a meeting with UCU representatives at their request to
discuss the Fund our Future Campaign, established jointly between UCU and
the NUS.  He separately also met Students’ Union Representatives on this
and other issues.

The College recognises that changes to funding will have significant
consequences for the whole sector in the coming years.

The College management will make its views known to government on its
proposals as they emerge.  It will do so individually, and collectively
with sector colleagues through channels open to it, as it always has done.

However, we recognise that many staff, students and other interested
parties feel they will wish to make their views known via the Fund Our
Future Campaign, and this includes a proposed demonstration on 10th
November 2010.

On one hand, the fact that this is in reading week means that this will not
generally put staff and students in the difficult position of choosing
whether to attend college for teaching or go on the demonstration.

We would encourage Heads of Department not to put unnecessary barriers in
the way of staff or students reorganising their working time so that they
can attend the demonstration if they wish to do so.

On the other hand it is unfortunate that the demonstration coincides with
our College Open Day.  Our Trades Union colleagues and the Students’ Union
recognise that we need to ensure that this is properly staffed.  We would
ask Heads of Department to ensure that they have planned and agreed who is
to attend the Open Day on the Department’s behalf.  Can I remind colleagues
that we had more than 6,000 visitors on open Day last year.

I am sure that -working together – staff, student and Heads of Department
can arrange activities in a way that will meet everyone’s needs.

Chris Pearson
Director of Human Resources

snip snip cut cut

No Pit Uni Closures!

-march on 20 Oct at 4:30pm, assemble at Lincolns Inn Fields and march to

10 Downing Street (

-public meeting on 20 Oct at 7Pm, organised by the Lewisham Anti Cuts
Alliance and taking place in the Stephen Lawrence Committee Room

-SERTUC march on the 23rd of October; assemble 11AM at Unity House,
Chalton Street

Bakun troubles still (of course)




Press statement by Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM, 14 October 2010

The decision by the developer and manager of the Bakun Dam project, Sarawak Hidro to start the impoundment of the Bakun Dam yesterday is the height of irresponsibility. Only the day before, the people had been told that there has to be seven continuous days of dry weather and water depth of below 60m for it to be safe to flood the dam.

There has been continuous inclement weather in the area which has caused the worst environmental disaster in Sarawak with the 250 km logjam the length of the Rajang river, resulting in damage to bridges and villages, disruption to river transport and destruction of fish.

Each day of delay was costing the developers a fortune but the health and safety of the people downstream cannot be compromised just to save costs. According to The Star:

The flooding was initiated in a somewhat sudden manner at short notice after Sarawak Hidro engineers held a late meeting on Tuesday night and decided that the weather and river conditions were safe enough…”

Sarawak Hidro had gone ahead with the impounding of the dam despite the fact that the Bakun folk had lodged a police report because the issue of compensation for the people affected had not yet been settled although they were resettled 15 years ago. Furthermore, the Emergency Rescue Plan for people living downstream has not been made public.

While the Sarawak State Government is acting irresponsiblyly, the Federal government cannot feign ignorance since Sarawak Hidro is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.

The Bakun Dam had federal endorsement from the very beginning and Dr Mahathir must bear total responsibility for erecting this “second highest concrete rock-filled dam in the world” to show that “Malaysia Boleh”. Despite the opposition by NGO activists as well as dam experts since the 1970s, this project has carried on and with it a litany of disasters for the indigenous peoples as well as Malaysian tax payers as we had warned years ago.

The entire Bakun dam project has been littered with broken promises, environmental assessment reports and experts’ opinions ignored and other compromises. We have already witnessed the environmental disaster in recent years but the 250km logjam and dead fish along the Rajang during the last week has been the worst so far.

With this brazen disregard for safety standards by impounding the dam, the Sarawak State Government and the Federal Government must bear full responsibility for any future disasters that may happen at this accursed Bakun dam. When it happens, they should not feign ignorance, shed crocodile tears or try and blame God again!


past atrocities:

also see an old piece of mine on the Bakun scheme from Left Curve #23 1999 ‘Resettling Bakun: Consultancy, Anthropologists and Development’.

The actuality of Lenin and a Primer on the Leninist Party

Two recent posts by Jodi on Lukacs and Lenin:

October 11, 2010

The actuality of revolution

A central idea in Lukacs’s Lenin is that the leninist party presupposes the actuality of revolution. In this and upcoming posts, I hope to think more about this idea, both in terms of Lukacs’s account of Lenin and with respect to organizing now.

My initial impulse is to think about the actuality of revolution in connection with democracy to come.

Some on the post-structuralist left embrace the Derridean idea of a democracy that has and cannot arrive, that most be forever postponed, to come. This is an ostensible strength of democracy, that it cannot be realized. Although I don’t know Derrida well, I associate this idea with the possibility of deconstruction, with thinking, with some kind of openness or potential. It seems, then, a sort of gap that holds open a promise not to totalize, not to terrorize, a promise or commitment to futurity and the unknown. Any given decision or act will necessarily be lacking, but this very lack is the opening democracy demands.

In contrast with such an openness, the Leninist party appears as a specter of horror, as the remnant or trace of the failed revolution the terrors of which must be avoided at all costs. In such a vision (which may not be concretely held by anyone but seems vaguely intuited by most), communism is reduced not simply to the actual (which is always necessarily ruptured, incomplete, irreducible to itself, and pregnant with the unrealized potentials of the past) but to the parody of one actuality, an actuality that itself as changed over time and from different perspectives (for example, the difference between US presentations of the USSR during WWII and US presentations of communism in 2010). In such a reduction (which is an ongoing process), actuality is displaced by an impossible figure, a figure so resolute as to be incapable of revolutionary change.

What is the actuality of revolution? I’ll look at more of the details from Lukacs in subsequent posts, but at the minimum we can say that it involves change, confusion, disturbance, chaos, and the possibility wherein tendencies in one direction can suddenly move in a completely opposite direction. For the Leninist party, the actuality of revolution requires discipline and preparation, not because it can accurately predict everything that will occur, because it cannot, and not because it has an infallible theory, which it does not. Discipline and preparation are necessary in order to adapt to the circumstances. The party has to be consistent and flexible because of revolution is chaotic.

The actuality of revolution, then, is kind of enabling impediment. It is a condition of constitutive non-knowledge for which the party can prepare (and help prepare the proletariat). It’s a condition that demands response, if the party is to be accountable to the people, if it is to function as a communist party (it is the difference that communist makes).

The difference between actuality and futurity (or the perpetual displacement of democracy into an impossible future), then, is a difference in preparation, discipline, responsiveness, planning. The former requires it, the latter seems to eschew it or postpone it. For the Leninst party, to postpone is to fail now.

The actuality of revolution means that one cannot perpetually defer a decision, action, or judgment; it means that one undertakes it, fully exposed to one’s lack of coverage in history or even in the revolutionary moment. It means that one has to trust that the revolutionary process will bring about new constellations, arrangements, skills, convictions, that through it we will make something else, something we aren’t imagining now.

Perhaps this seems less surprising, less far-fetched, now that, for a decade, many of us have been making something else together. We’ve been linking and connecting, doing more than forwarding kitten photos. We’ve been building alliances and awareness, sharing knowledge of crimes, inequalities, violence, exploitation. We’ve been hearing the right claiming their revolution and we’ve been swept up in the reality of their counter-revolution. We’ve heard the neoliberals and financial despots claim that they are entitled to 90 percent of the wealth and we know, and now because we are connected know that we know, that they are wrong.

It could be that now is when ideas that have become abstract and hard to comprehend, ideas like the proletariart as the subject-object of history, may start to make more sense. To me, now, the idea of the subject-object of history indexes feedback loops, self-organized networks, emergent formations where we are bringing ourselves into being as something new; we are the objects of ourselves. We are already making our setting. The point is to make it differently and to take back what is being taken away–products of our work, opportunities to share, spaces to live, healthy food and environments.

The actuality of revolution is the press/pressure that we feel, that we can’t put off but must redirect.

Post 2:

October 11, 2010

Primer on the Leninist party

To think about the attributes of the Leninist party, one needs to understand its setting. The structure of the party is completely imbricated in its setting in the sense that it is a response to it, produced through its interaction with it, an interaction that is inseparable from the revolutionary situation. The party ‘is not but is becoming.’

1.    Class struggle: the party is necessary because class consciousness isn’t automatic. Folks don’t automatically understand their conditions in terms of exploitation or, if they do, dominant ideologies provide interpretations of this exploitation that displace possibilities of resistance. Another way to put them, the people or the proletariat doesn’t know itself and what it wants.

2.    The actuality of revolution: the party doesn’t make the revolution. Rather, the party is an instrument of class struggle in a revolutionary period. In such a period, there is turmoil among multiple social forces, multiple factions and factors within society as well as within the proletariat itself (recall, the proletariat is not one or unified). The party, then, is a discipline organization of the ‘fully conscious’  elements of the proletariat within this setting.

As I mentioned in the preceding post [above], the actuality of revolution is confused and changeable. Lukacs’ description of the Leninst party, then, cannot be separated from this actuality. Lukacs writes:

the Leninst form of organization is inseparably connected with the ability to foresee the approaching revolution. For only in this context is every deviation from the right path fateful and disastrous for the proletariat; only in this context can a decision on an apparently trivial everyday issue be of profound significance to it . . .

It would be easy to read this passage as implying a claim to be able to foresee the revolution, to know the right path. But what about an alternative, one that emphasizes not a knowledge that Lukacs explicitly acknowledges is impossible in a revolutionary situation but an organizational form that recognizes and responds to the seriousness of the setting in which it finds itself? So the Leninist party is connected to the precarity of the revolutionary setting. It is an organizational form that doesn’t take the normal for granted (the normal or everyday is precisely what a revolution disrupts) but instead proceeds with an appreciation for the fact that everything is up for grabs. As Lukacs says later in the text, ‘the actual time and circumstances are hardly ever exactly determinable.’

3.  In a revolutionary setting, allies from different classes join the proletariat–and this brings confusion; these other elements can ‘deflect it from its path.’ Lukacs writes:

The working class, provided it knows what it wants and what its class interests dictate, can free both itself and these other groups from social bondage.

We already know, though, that the working class doesn’t know what it wants and what its interests dictate. We already know that this sort of class consciousness is not spontaneous but has to be produced. And, it’s not that the party will know certainly what the working class wants. But it will know that the lack of such knowledge should not impede action because it cannot forestall the actuality of revolution. In a way, the party is the strict organization of a limit or lack, a response to the newness or openness of history. Lukacs writes:

If events had to be delayed until the proletariat entered the decisive struggle united and clear in its aims, there would never be a revolutionary situation.

4.    The Leninst party combines strict selection of party members with total solidarity with and support for all the oppressed and exploited within capitalist society.

5.     The party must prepare the revolution. Here the party is producer and product (feedback, networks, self-organization, emergence). It is an exclusive organization that interacts with, and learns from, the struggles and suffering of the people. Sometimes the party will exacerbate tendencies; sometimes it will have to change course. So it has to try to foresee and forecast and prepare the people in light of these forecasts, but these are in no way guarantees. They are not the mechanistic outcomes of deterministic laws. Rather, there are moments of chance, contingency, indeterminacy. The party has to be able immediately adjust to an ever-changing situation.

6.    The reading I’m giving of Lukacs’s account of the Leninist party might seem to founder on the following:

Because the party, on the basis of its knowledge of society in its totality, represents the interests of the whole proletariat (and in doing so mediates the intersts of all the oppressed-the future of mankind), it must unite within it all the contradictions in which the tasks that arise from the very heart of this social totality are expressed [...strict selection of party members, unconditional devotion to revolution, ability to merge themselves in lives of stuggling and suffering masses]…

I don’t think my reading has to founder, though (and, honestly, I am less interested in fidelity to Lukacs than I am in finding an organizational form that could work for us today). To unite contradictions within itself is not to resolve them: rather, it is to express them as contradictions. The Lenininst revolutionaries take on themselves the demands and conflicts of the revolution. They perform the revolutionary situation, in all its chaos and uncertainty. So the Leninist party cannot be a party that makes demands on the people; it has to be a party that makes present to the people the demands they are already making on themselves. Lukacs:

For the stringency of the demands made on party members si only a way of making clear to the whole proletariat (and all strata exploited by capitalism) where their true interests lie, and of making them conscious of the true basis of their hiterhto unconscious actions, vague ideology and confused feelings.

7.      Learning depends on action and struggle and hence on discipline and flexibility.


Just loving the anticipation as things heat up (notes for a critique of the Browne Review and an apocalyptic tone in advance of next week’s rampage and doom)

The architecture of the university will become a market reorganised shelf by shelf upon the layout of the department or convenience store. Just by the check outs there will be chocolates and candy, children’s toys will be displayed at pram level, the tea and coffee arrayed alongside the biscuits and cakes. Wholesome foods, fruits and needed items that do not necessarily provide the market owner with a large mark-up are at the back of the store, they are not meant to be the target purchase, and are used to entice the shoppers to browse. Large signs will promote in-store deals and specials of the day – two-for-one philosophy courses taught by bright graduates and a discount weekend ‘walk in east London’ post-graduate certificate run by Ian Sinclair for a fiver a time (photography extra, and syndicated in 140 characters to the national press 2.0). On orientation day, tasty promotional cheese snacks will be offered on shiny trays presented by young attendants in Dianne Abbot designed robes with badges saying ‘have a nice day’, without irony. There will be store cards by which you can pay interest-free for the first month and secure your bonus Barclays Bank branded copy of “Thus Vomits Zarathustra” (‘they have something of which they are very proud’). There will be celebrity ads and competitions offering free places on the telly. Jamie Oliver will run the canteen, but Gordon Ramsey will be Ofstead inspecting him. Floated on the stock exchange, certain colleges will be in receivership within a year and docked ten points, guaranteeing relegation to the Tetley’s League; Eric Cantona will return to manage the Polytechnic of Shoreditch, never rejecting an interview or chance to appear on the pundits chair on Uni of the Day (Saturday evenings on BBC10) and scratch cards with collectable chewing gum wrappers will replace degree certificates. I personally will supervise three hundred and twenty micro-PhDs (two week programmes) at a fee I set at whim. These will be taught on the 436 bus, please buy a ticket from the machine before boarding. Bring on the Browne report and the Spending Review – I am reading Virginia Wolf’s “Three Guineas” and thinking the options are clear. In for a penny, in for a pound – match me Sidney, match me.


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