Category Archives: bees

Marx’s letter to Abe.

The International Workingmen’s Association 1864

Address of the International Working Men’s Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America

Presented to U.S. Ambassador Charles Francis Adams
January 28, 1865 [A]


Written: by Marx between November 22 & 29, 1864
First Published: The Bee-Hive Newspaper, No. 169, November 7, 1865;
Transcription/Markup: Zodiac/Brian Baggins;
Online Version: Marx & Engels Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2000.


 

Sir:

We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery.

From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, “slavery” on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding “the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution”, and maintained slavery to be “a beneficent institution”, indeed, the old solution of the great problem of “the relation of capital to labor”, and cynically proclaimed property in man “the cornerstone of the new edifice” — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders’ rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. [B]

Signed on behalf of the International Workingmen’s Association, the Central Council:

Longmaid, Worley, Whitlock, Fox, Blackmore, Hartwell, Pidgeon, Lucraft, Weston, Dell, Nieass, Shaw, Lake, Buckley, Osbourne, Howell, Carter, Wheeler, Stainsby, Morgan, Grossmith, Dick, Denoual, Jourdain, Morrissot, Leroux, Bordage, Bocquet, Talandier, Dupont, L.Wolff, Aldovrandi, Lama, Solustri, Nusperli, Eccarius, Wolff, Lessner, Pfander, Lochner, Kaub, Bolleter, Rybczinski, Hansen, Schantzenbach, Smales, Cornelius, Petersen, Otto, Bagnagatti, Setacci;

George Odger, President of the Council; P.V. Lubez, Corresponding Secretary for France; Karl Marx, Corresponding Secretary for Germany; G.P. Fontana, Corresponding Secretary for Italy; J.E. Holtorp, Corresponding Secretary for Poland; H.F. Jung, Corresponding Secretary for Switzerland; William R. Cremer, Honorary General Secretary.

18 Greek Street, Soho.


[A] From the minutes of the Central (General) Council of the International — November 19, 1864:

“Dr. Marx then brought up the report of the subcommittee, also a draft of the address which had been drawn up for presentation to the people of America congratulating them on their having re-elected Abraham Lincoln as President. The address is as follows and was unanimously agreed to.”

[B] The minutes of the meeting continue:

“A long discussion then took place as to the mode of presenting the address and the propriety of having a M.P. with the deputation; this was strongly opposed by many members, who said workingmen should rely on themselves and not seek for extraneous aid…. It was then proposed… and carried unanimously. The secretary correspond with the United States Minister asking to appoint a time for receiving the deputation, such deputation to consist of the members of the Central Council.”

Spivak on Hope in 2009 at Whitechapel

Screen shot 2012-12-13 at 23.37.21

Bees again

Nothing can be understood, as Adorno said of Hegel, in isolation from the whole:

‘in the context of the whole, but with the awkward qualification that the whole in turn lives only in the individual moments. In actuality, however, this kind of doubleness of the dialectic eludes literary presentation’ (Adorno 1963 Hegel: Three Studies – in the third one)

But the thing is that we can also cite Adorno’s aphorism from Minima Moralia that ‘the whole is the untrue’, and be sure here that although Marx now reveals the secret of value, this is, also, untrue. It is neither correct except insofar as a great numb of conditioning factors are held aside, nor is it incorrect, but it certainly is in need of supplementing. Without Hegel, and I would say without Adorno to guide a reading of Hegel, there is no chance of getting Marx. Lenin says as much as well.

Adorno’s Hegel is important for example when he says that Hegel does not fall for the uncritical facade:

‘there are good reasons why the dialectic of essence and appearance is moved to the centre of the Logic. This needs to be remembered at a time when those who administer the dialectic in it’s materialist version, the official thought of the East Bloc, have debased it to an unreflective copy theory’ Adorno Three Studies p8

We should be wary of appearances for sure, but also of essences. The essentializing character of seeking out value, or the tool, or the primitive instinct, over against the essence of human creative labour as architect, even the worst architect. Mediation has to be kept alive here, as perhaps a labour of thought. It is not a middle term, but it brings thinking to life between essence and appearance, and it is a permanent confrontation, this dialectic. It is not a world view (Adorno Three Studies p9)

Marx had said of the Phenomenology, as Adorno notes, that in it Hegel had grasped the nature of labour and man as the result of his labour. This labour is social, labour as something for something, or someone, else (Adorno Three Studies p18). This is quite a thing, to suggest Hegel’s spirit is social labour

 ‘the crucial connection between the concepts of desire and Labour removes the latter from the position of a mere analogy to the abstract active of the abstract spirit. Labour in the full sense is in fact tied to desire, which it in turn negates; it satisfies the needs of human beings on all levels, helps them without their difficulties, reproduces human life, and demands sacrifices if them in turn’ (Adorno Three Studies p22)

But idealism is mistaken to turn the totality of labour into something existing in itself as metaphysical principle, as if social labour could be conceives as separate fro nature on which it depends. No nature as such either, of course, and no abstract desire. We do not talk of human nature, nor think there are universal needs.

Adorno quotes Marx on nature and labour from the Critique of the Gotha Programme, ‘labour is not the sours of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use-values’ (in Adorno Three Studies p23) even as Marx notes this is both ‘correct’ and a bourgeois children’s book phrasing that cannot be left without a comment or two about the way in which humanity works with nature and that any suggestion that nature is a basis for subordinating those who only have their labour power to sell to be compelled to sell it ‘as a slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labour’ (in Adorno Three Studies p 24)

This is followed by a critique of Hegel,s idealism in which labour is detached and becomes ideology as an inherent value. Adorno mentions the section on lord and bondsman but passes quickly rather to Hegel’s comments on religion and ‘spirit as artificer’, as labour, as an instinctive operation ‘like the building of a honeycomb by the bees’ (Hegel in Adorno Three Studies p24). To this inclusion of labour in spirit Adorno suggests ‘only a little more would be needed – remembrance of the simultaneously mediated and irrevocably natural moment of labour – and the Hegelian dialectic would reveal its identity and speak it’s own name’ (Adorno Three Studies p25)

Still, at least we can see where Marx got his interest in bees.

Hegel, in Phenomenology of Spirit, in the section on The Artificer, writes:

‘SPIRIT, therefore, here appears, as an artificer, and its action whereby it produces itself as object but without having as yet grasped the thought of itself is an instinctive operation, like the building of a honeycomb by bees

The first form, because it is immediate, is the abstract form of the Understanding, and the work is not yet in its own self filled with spirit. The crystals of pyramids and obelisks, simple combinations of straight lines with plane surfaces and equal proportions of parts, in which the incommensurability of the round is destroyed, these are the works of this artificer of rigid form. On account of the merely abstract intelligibleness of the form, the significance of the work is not in the work itself, is not the spiritual self. Thus either the works receive Spirit into them only as an alien, departed spirit that has forsaken its living saturation with reality and, being itself dead, takes up its abode in this lifeless crystal; or they have an external relation to Spirit’ p421

Sabot not quite sabot – weekender version…

This, I presume, is for those who can’t find a spanner. But I noted the bees.

‘This settlement is long gone in Britain, used only as a bargaining chip or blackmail within industrial relations disputes. As our conditions of labour as cognitive workers have changed, morphed from the design studio to the atomised precarious freelancer, the ability to oversee a daring or critical design has been banished. Instead, we work as bees, each producing a tiny fragment of the whole. In this position as a worker, we cannot hold any critical control over the work we produce, just enact the formulations of other workers, the workers who piece together polls and focus groups, who brainstorm slogans or typefaces.’

from the always interesting DSG:

http://deterritorialsupportgroup.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/goatse-as-industrial-sabotage/

Goatse as Industrial Sabotage

This short article is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for internet dabblers, or the recently-fed. Or maybe it is- maybe this article will give some insight into the world of the digital natives. It aims to shed light on an internet phenomenon, in turn giving the shadow, depth and form of class-struggle to what might, on first appearances, seem like a decidedly two-dimensional case study. Here, we wish to talk about a meme called Goatse, and the story of how a revolting and childish prank spread to become a modern-day “sabot”, a memetic tool for workers to undermine their employers, and with it, the ideology of work.

Goatse (usually pronounced Goat-See) is an internet meme that emerged in the late 1990’s, and is a good case study for how memes transfer through populations, shifting forms and emptying themselves of content as they go (something we talk about in more depth in our chapter for the forthcoming “20 Reasons” book). The original Goatse image, cunningly entitled “hello.jpg”, was hosted at Goatse.cx –.cx being the top-level domain for Christmas Island. It constituted a shock site, akin to the later phenomenon of “rickrolling”, where a link with a disguised URL is posted onto a forum or social media site under a false pretext. In a “rick roll” the unwitting victim clicks the link, and is redirected to the youtube clip, “Rick Roll’d”, of Rick Astley singing his 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”. This false link has become one of the most popular and enduring memes and “Rick Roll’d” has been viewed almost 50 million times as of writing.

Goatse was a similar “bait and switch” prank, but involved being redirected to the (arguably) more disturbing site of a middle-aged man using both hands to pull apart his dilated rectum remarkably wide, revealing to the poor victim the depths of the man’s guts. On his left hand,a gold ring; a touching detail. It’s a remarkably foul example of the murkier undercurrents of online fora, and visible here, if you’re that type of person.

So why are we raising this spectre, this perverse underbelly of networked technology? We’re raising it because Goatse is a prime example of the meme-form, and its memetic transference has interesting knock-on implications for the design industry in general, and the critical undermining of that industry through its workers specifically.

One of the interesting developments of the internet meme-as-subject (that is, a self-aware and self-reflexive subject, rather than a metaphor for information transfer, as originally posited by Richard Dawkins) is its ability to retain its unique identity even when its form changes, or its content, or even both. Only the minimum trace of the original joke needs to remain- or no trace at all, as long as those in on the joke can trace back the heritage of the joke to the original. And so it is with Goatse- indeed, losing the “shock” factor has spread the Goatse meme far beyond its original parameters. Whilst the original “switch and bait” meme survives, running concurrently with it is a meme which functions in almost a polar opposite form. In this, graphical representations of the original image are inserted into (or spotted in) everyday commercial design. Rather than being a surprise image of such stark realness that everyone is forced into a visceral reaction on first meeting with the image, instead the image works as an in-joke IRL amongst those who consider themselves digital natives– people who operate in cyberspace as a singular territory in-and-of itself (rather than a sphere attached to the “real world”).

Examples of Goatses proliferate- some subtle, some blatant. Some can be put down to “accident”– a reading backwards of the meme. But we are more concerned with the more common occurrence– the intentional Goatse, slipped in surreptitiously to the advertising image with a wink and a nod to those who “get it”, and passing a reference to extreme rectal stretching under the noses of the paymasters.

The ability for this “in-joke” representation to appear within mainstream advertising and commercial image production relies upon two developments within postfordist capitalism: technological development and the proletarianisation of the creative industries. The first point is obvious– the development of cyberspace as a territory of virtual community, and the development of digital imaging hardware/software, has created a means of recording and disseminating chance observations of advertising hoardings, online and offline material and chance observations. It has also created a relatively lawless, anonymous environment where pornographic and extreme material can be circulated without fear of embarrassment.

This is the culture where the in-joke can breed, but this form of technological development comes hand-in-hand, fist-in-glove with new ways of organising the labour which produces this commercial cultural material in the first place; an atomised form of organising creative labour which has wholly changed the way graphic design works. It’s all very well creating the arena for subverted advertising to be passed around, but what was also needed was a particular disinvestment of cultural and creative workers, an alienation from the productive process whereby sabotage of their own creative output became more important than fulfilling the allotted task.

Within this environment the “in-joke” differs markedly to workplace in-jokes of the past. Today, you might be the only person in your office who gets the joke. But worldwide you’re connecting to thousands of others in a form of exploded solidarity. It’s a dynamic form, a vivid social relationship the marketeers can – for the time being – only dream of invoking with their cosy stock images of friends-coming-together, sharing a joke over a glass of chardonnay. The proletarian – especially within the present conditions, the info-prole – is a force who pushes forward innovation through her resistance to capital, and it is capital who exists on the back-foot, damming the flow of proletarian innovation, demanding enlarged logos in order to harness its power.

Here Goatse acts as a rejection of labour; and not just labour, but an ideology ofpost-fordist labour, where we are not simply selling labour-time, but selling ourselves, our creative and cognitive skills, as a product for an employer to buy. Perhaps here we can see Goatse as a morphing of the dialogic image. The dialogic image emerged as a strategy in the 1970s and 80s in the work of Dutch designer Jan van Toorn. The design presents multiple conflicting messages, with a view to forcing a demystified, critical reading from its audience. Here it is used in a positive form, influenced by Enzensberger’s theory of ‘emancipatory media’; it is considered, logical, a conscious and explicit criticality, aimed at heightening a social awareness of the constructed nature of the visual environment. A criticality negotiated between an autonomous, individual designer, an adventurous client, and a broad, undifferentiated public audience – a product of a social settlement already dead in the UK, now finally being destroyed in the Netherlands.

This settlement is long gone in Britain, used only as a bargaining chip or blackmail within industrial relations disputes. As our conditions of labour as cognitive workers have changed, morphed from the design studio to the atomised precarious freelancer, the ability to oversee a daring or critical design has been banished. Instead, we work as bees, each producing a tiny fragment of the whole. In this position as a worker, we cannot hold any critical control over the work we produce, just enact the formulations of other workers, the workers who piece together polls and focus groups, who brainstorm slogans or typefaces.

In this scenario, the dialogic image must be reduced to a short-hand: Goatse, the in-joke, provides that. Within Goatse, the dialogic image is covert; unable to exercise any significant level of authorial control within the design process, the designer forces the critical dissonance by tapping into the in-joke. Rather than a critical dialogue between worker and employer being an open one, it has become a secretive conflict; rather than a critical design image being a conscious attempt to demystify design as a mediated process, it becomes an attempt to undermine and destroy the design process. Adopting the supposedly most efficient working process for capital has pushed design to eat itself. The dialogic image has become the weaponisation of ridicule; the designer has become a postfordist saboteur of the industrial process, and the ever-present spectre of sabotage as the unspoken clot of class-war clogs another artery of capital.

Do bee do bee do

beesHere is the first of ‘Eleven theses on art and politics’ for my talk in Copenhagen on thursday (‘Forms of engagement, Configurations of politics’ conference):

1. Do Bees have art?

“what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax.” – Marx, Capital I, p284

In Marx’s passage about the bees and the architects, clearly it is the bees who do not have representation, despite their excellent construction skills. The (human) architect constructs a structure in the mind (or on paper) before building it in the world. We can call this art. If we are to take Marx’s analogy seriously, bees do not have art, they have sting and a love of nectar, but no art.

But if art is different to politics, do bees have politics? Is the art of politics one of opportunity and struggle in the real? Or is strategy and tactics the equivalent of art in the human? Debord’s interest in strategy, as well as that long tradition within communism, will be relevant here. It may be that bees, with their hierarchy in the hive, but also their expansive quest to pollinate, have in fact a politics that can teach us.

But perhaps the bees have been caught up and caged. In England, we are told that bees are under threat and our entire biosphere is in danger if bees cease to do the endless work of pollinating flowers – which connects up nature to culture to economy in ways only hinted at by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Meanwhile, in the advanced sectors of capital:

Nicole Pepperel writes: I have to admit, I’ve never particularly thought about the industrial organisation of crop pollination, until I read this column from the New York Times discussing possible responses to Colony Collapse Disorder – the mysterious plague that causes adult bees to desert their hives, leaving honey and larvae behind. I found this image particularly striking:

“…it is important to add that, here in the United States, the majority of our crops are pollinated not by wild bees, or even by honeybees like mine, which live in one location throughout the year, but by a vast mobile fleet of honeybees-for-rent”.

“From the almond trees of California to the blueberry bushes of Maine, hundreds of thousands of domestic honeybee hives travel the interstate highways on tractor-trailers. The trucks pull into a field or orchard just in time for the bloom; the hives are unloaded; and the bees are released. Then, when the work of pollination is done, the bees are loaded up, and the trucks pull out, heading for the next crop due to bloom”.

(Originally posted by N Pepperell 29/01/2009 http://www.roughtheory.org/content/worker-bees/)

Clearly there is a politics of bees, and it is of more importance than we often concede. So, as Adorno says…

[added:

11-theses-on-art-and-politics-continues-parts-2-3/

11-theses-on-art-and-politics-4/

11-theses-on-art-and-politics-567/ ]

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