Category Archives: international

A distraction from extraction. #murdoch #slept-in

If you had time to read the newspapers critically… – I would think you would start with cartoons, then segway to games of chance, the races, football transfer windows, the property market, subprime crisis, austerity and bankers bonuses to show that the entertainment logic of the sports pages/back of the paper runs to the same surface logic as the so-called news at the front of the paper – all in effect a distraction from ongoing geopolitical and micro-political value extraction no matter that it’s culture like opera or weapons sales and death. It makes no difference what the investment is in, so long as a profit is made for the owner (Marx chapter 16 of capital – sausage factory quote).

Snitching about…

was sent this by the folk at V.I.S.A. (Victorious International Student Army):

 

Stop the Snitching: What We Mean By Non-compliance

 

The pastoral idyll is dead. It was bulldozed long ago only to be overlain with a grid of barbed wire. If it ever had any real existence, it is now best described as a border fence, an internment camp, an interrogation room at the dock or airport. What we mean by this, is that the argument that attendance records – from lectures, classes, tutorials – need to be kept for pastoral reasons is now untenable. It needs to be jettisoned, however much nostalgia or regret we may feel in doing so. It is no longer safe or strategic to record attendance, for whatever reason, now that the border crosses us in our places of work and learning.

 

If the border is a social relation and not a thing, then we must pay attention to the ways in which we are reproducing, enabling and enforcing that border in our day-to-day lives. The most obvious way we might do this is, of course, the demand that teaching staff act as border agents by forwarding attendance records to the UKBA. Three missing strikes and you’re a terrorist. Goldsmiths UCU were quick to adopt a position of non-compliance, and has re-affirmed this stance in a recent statement. We need to be clear, however, about exactly what we mean by non-compliance, and alert to those who might be in a weaker position, from which non-compliance becomes more difficult to uphold.

 

Regarding the latter, two groups immediately spring to mind: administrative staff, and international students themselves. Admin staff are easier for management to single out, scapegoat, and threaten with punitive measures. Even a well-meaning attendance record kept for pastoral purposes can become a border snitch if intercepted once in administrative hands. Alternatively, lying on attendance registers makes teaching staff liable. To co-opt a reasonably repugnant, and thankfully now redundant, phrase from the US military, the best policy with regard to non-compliance is: don’t ask, don’t tell. If the data is never recorded, it can’t be passed on. Simple.

 

Management will, however, undoubtedly try to fulfill the UKBA’s demands whilst at the same time seeking to sidestep hostilities from staff and students. ‘Light touch’ is management-speak for this covert-cavity-search-on-campus approach. If they are unable to get the information they need from teaching or admin staff, rest assured they will exploit the vulnerabilities inherent in the precarious status of international students directly. We need to make it clear – strikes, occupations, public refusal – that any requirement or request that demands international students act as their own border agent, or assumes them to be criminal or terrorist until proven otherwise, is in blatant contradiction of our position of non-compliance. We need to make sure our non-compliance doesn’t leak. Stop the snitching – solidarity across the board and the border.

 

Love and rage,

 

Goldsmiths Migration Solidarity

H.Ed Horror Show (‘Exporting UK Higher Education’ – BIS)

If you were missing the Olympics, here is another bread and circuses event that may or may not have the G4S doing security.

(click the screenshot to go to the confluence website):

Anyone remember the Hotel Nikko in Sydney August 1991? (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/740)

 

Australia tries out new cleansing immigration form…

A friend is applying for residency in Australia – the glorious points based immigration system.

She writes:

“I included a picture of this because I could not stop laughing when I saw this,  the government requires a “character assessment” to insure that you are “of good character”.  They have you get police reports for the last 10 years, and all sorts of nonsense.  Among the biggest pieces of nonsense is the form itself.  Question number 6,  after name, gender,DOB, and  the like is “Are you of Arabic descent?”.  RIght after asking you if you are a Chinese businessman.  Whether or not you are of Arabic descent is apparently crucial for the Australian government to determine if you are of good character”

 

Here is the relevant page of the form:

More Olympiss Action

A MEMORIAL IN EXILE

Press Release June 27 2012

Orbits of Responsibility for a War Crime from a Bosnian mine to London’s Olympic Park

[PDF] 2 July 2012 Event Press Release

[PDF] Opinion Piece by Susan Schuppli

Download Images of Omarska

On July 2 2012 London’s Olympic tower — the ArcelorMittal Orbit — will be reclaimed as A Memorial in Exile by survivors of the Bosnian concentration camp at Omarska, now a fully-functional mine operated by ArcelorMittal. Iron ore and profits extracted from Omarksa have been used to manufacture London’s newest landmark.

 

Keep reading here - http://www.forensic-architecture.org/explorations/a-memorial-in-exile-orbits-of-responsibility-for-a-war-crime/

.

 

 

Palestine Place London

Go to this. http://palestineplace.wordpress.com/

 

“We didn’t know it was impossible, so we did it!” The Quebec Student Strike celebrates its 100th day

Origins of an unlimited general strike (“grève générale illimitée”)

Students in Quebec are marking their 100th day of an unlimited general strike on Tuesday, May 22nd, the culmination of the most stunning mass protest movements of recent months and North America’s largest student movement in years. In fact, the mobilizations in Quebec might just be Canada’s Arab Spring.

Students have been organizing against tuition hikes for nearly one and a half years, when the Quebec government first proposed to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years (amended to 82% over seven years by the government at the end of April). Before the general strike began in February, protests, demos, trainings, letter writing campaigns and attempts to negotiate in good faith with the government were consistently met with obstinate silence from the Charest administration. For the students there has been a growing sense of urgency and a shared recognition that increased tuition means a heavier student debt burden, hundreds of more hours a year spent working instead of studying, less access for working class and lower class students, and a shift in university culture toward the market, the commodification of education, the financialization of student life, and the privatization of the university.
Even if fees increase, Quebec students would be paying less than other provinces in Canada, a gap the provincial government has been aiming to close. But so far every time the administration has proposed to do so, students have gone on strike. Deep in the Quebec struggle is a culture of solidarity and security, a social fabric, a sense of community that endures and mobilizes a powerful defense of their commonwealth. Call it what you will, it is precisely this that Margaret Thatcher declared war upon on May 1st 1981 when she said that the project of neoliberalism is to change the heart and soul of a ‘collectivist’ spirit, and its means is economics. Indeed, the Finance Minister of the Quebec Liberal government recently called its austerity policies “a cultural revolution” and they are not shy about their plan to reorganize Quebecois life through fiscal discipline. The Modèle québécois of social collectivism (in its traditional social democratic sensibility, but also, and more importantly, its directly democratic ethic that has emerged in the course of the last 14 weeks of strike) is the target of these policies, specifically through education and health. This is what explains the Charest government’s attempts to break the strike and destroy the student unions.

Student unionism is particularly strong in Quebec, and for a reason: they are inherently political, engaging, and participatory, using principles of direct democracy in weekly general assemblies. A dispersal of power, where students have a direct role in shaping the culture of university life through the policies and activities of the unions has been the backbone of the growing movement against tuition hikes, and the secret to why it has been able to mobilize such a broad and popular base. Yet, while a rejection of political parties and emphasis on direct democracy and militancy infuse the movement, there are in reality a range of unions—from the combative wing of the movement, such as the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ) that demands free education, to more corporatist and mainstream student unions that integrate with bourgeois political parties.

But this struggle represents more than students. It represents an attack on the middle class and lower income families, their sense of social cohesion, and the social entitlement and equality of access to public services amid rising cost of living. The strikes register across these domains of everyday life, in the university, in the family home, the workplace, and the hospital, where increasingly the same growing resentment of the imposition of austerity measures in Quebec emerge, as the tuition increases coincide with the first ever “health tax,” alongside a 20% increase in hydro rates, the raising of the federal retirement age to 67, as well as mass layoffs.

A chronology of the last weeks of the movement

On November 10th, over 200,000 students went on a one-day strike, and 30,000 took to the streets. 20,000 of which marched directly to Charest’s Montreal office to demonstrate against rising fees.  Hundreds, including the Quebec Women’s Federation, shut down the Montreal Stock Exchange in mid-February, a site dear to the 1%, and where the Charest government, who had so far been ignoring the budding movement, would certainly devote its rapt attention.

By February 23rd, forty thousand post-secondary students across the province joined the unlimited general strike. Thousands of students occupied the Jacques Cartier Bridge. If the tactical approaches of the movement had been ignored by university administrations and the provincial government in its first weeks, by March 22nd, student unions such as CLASSE (The Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarite Syndaicale Etudiante), whose 80,000 members have been leading the strike, couldn’t be missed. Since then, they have shifted focus toward targeting governmental offices, ministries, and crown corporations, placing strategic emphasis on economic disruption, an approach to direct action that has had precedence in many earlier urban protest movements in the last decade or so.

On March 22nd, as over 300,000 students had been on strike, a massive march in the streets inaugurated the Maple Spring (“Printemps Érable,” a play on words in French), with university after university, and college after college, going on strike. Two months later, on Tuesday, May 22nd, the Quebec students’ unlimited strike will celebrate its 100th day, already one of the largest student mobilizations in recent history. During 100 days of strike, contempt, and resistance, students have mobilized against steep tuition increases, austerity and debt, and the criminalization of the right to education.

On Friday, a friend Lilian Radovac, who has been active in the student mobilizations in Montreal, described a cultural shift expanding in the cracks of everyday austerity:

“For years, May ’68 was a dry, dusty thing other people theorized about in poor translations, but these last months, something like it has been happening in the crevices of our viequotidienne.  How strange that it is just there, between bus rides and doctor’s appointments and trips to the grocery store, a thing that is so extraordinary and so bizarrely normal at the same time.  The metro has been shut down by smoke bombs?  Oh well, I feel like a walk anyway.

Did it feel like this when OWS started?  It must have.”

Each week, in local general assemblies of student associations, students have voted to sustain the ‘renewable general strike’. With over 180 different unions representing some 170,000 students, university departments and the government can no longer hope the movement will dwindle on its own, and are increasingly forced to repress the movement actively. Indeed, days after the Education Minister Line Beauchamp resigned on May 14th over failed negotiations with student leaders, the Quebec Government enacted a special emergency law.

Bill 78 specifically targets the massive student assemblies and mobilizations in order to break the growing strike and destroy the power of the student union. One member of the Quebec political opposition used the term “Loi Fuck” to refer to the blunt and draconian tool that outlaws public assembly, imposes harsh fines for strike activity (even tacit support), and effectively makes organizing an arrestable offense. The bill also gives more power to the police in enforcing student protest. Indeed, during the last many weeks of escalating street demos, police have repeatedly preempted demonstrations with CS gas, sound grenades, ‘blast disperser’ grenades, and rubber bullets. Nevertheless, it is not clear how this law will be used in the coming days and weeks, or whether it will be successful in intimidating students.

An emergency law announced on the previous Wednesday “suspended” the semester for many CEGEP (academic and vocational college) and university students, with provisions for classes to be postponed until August. Provisions of Bill 78 that followed include:

  • Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for anyone who prevents someone from entering an educational institution.
  • Steep penalties of  $7,000 and $35,000 for anyone deemed a ‘student leader’ and between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student associations. Fines double after the first offense.
  • Plans for public demonstrations involving more than 50 people (originally 8) must be submitted to the police eight hours in advance, and must detail itinerary, duration and time at which they are being held.
  • Offering encouragement, tacitly supporting, or promoting protest at a school, either is subject to punishment.

In Montreal, specifically, a new municipal anti-mask law accompanies Bill 78, and another has been proposed at the federal level. With Charest’s attempts to legislate the end of the student movement, the struggle has deepened and is now at a turning point. Yet, on its 100th day of an unlimited general strike, the movement does not show any signs of slowing down or veering from its median tactic of general assemblies, its preferred direct action orientation, and its culture of horizontal democracy.

The return of the red square and our right to assembly

Students in Quebec have popularized the symbol of the “red square” to signify being financially “squarely in the red” amid tuition hikes, cuts in social entitlements, and the specter of spiraling student and consumer debt. As their movement has powerfully reminded us, we are all ‘in the red’ as long as the 1% imposes upon us austerity, debt, and repression.

The politics of austerity and the increased policing of everyday life reveal themselves in these instances to be inseparably linked. We can see the direct link between tuition hikes and the criminalization of assembly in Quebec, just as we can see Bloomberg’s management through “free speech zones” of political protest, the silencing of media, and the increased police aggression in suppressing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thus, solidarity with Quebec students is also important work in defense of our right to demonstrate here and everywhere. When times of crisis provoke ramped up police power and allow desperate politicians to pass “emergency laws” that target unquiet sectors of the population, we are certain that the class balance of present society is threatened. But it is a cautious joy we should preach, along with the sober insight that without powerful international solidarity and coordination, as James Baldwin once wrote to Angela Davis, “if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

The police backlash—through intimidation, repression, and wanton brutality—we have faced in NYC for trying to assemble is enormous. On May 2nd, students at Brooklyn College were met with police hostility as they demonstrated against policies that restrict access to education for lower-income students. Wherever the site of struggle, the very idea of opening up space for collective imagination is policed. But we are not battling on the plane of the imaginary. An attack in Quebec on the right to assemble, if unchallenged through coordinated international solidarity, will have real and chilling effects on our movements here.

Solidarity in NYC

Speaking about the Quebec students’ strike in New York, there is often enthusiasm and support, if not bewilderment upon learning of the size and power of their movement, something that the media blackout in the U.S. has successfully eclipsed. But there is also a bit of shoulder shrugging. “Are they really on strike for $250 dollars?” one unmoved passerby queried as we were wrapping up an assembly in the park on Sunday. Indeed more popular education needs to be done here on the plight of students in the climate of this crisis. But the student struggle, here in NYC as in Quebec, is not only a struggle for the student: it is about access to education for all regardless of economic circumstance, a challenge to the very economic and political planning that has been transforming our cities into spaces for the elite over the last three decades.
This past weekend, several groups from Occupy Wall Street and other organizations held an assembly to address these “emergency laws” and discuss solidarity with Quebec on Tuesday. Immediately a robust day was in the works: At 2PM on Tuesday, the time marches are slated to begin in Montreal, demonstrators in NYC will gather at the Quebec Government Offices at 1 Rockefeller Plaza. The Free University, which organized a day of free education in Madison Square Park on May Day, is hosting a pop-up occupation open to all students, educators, and community members.  At 5PM, there will be a gathering on the north side of the fountain in Washington Square Park, where people will paint banners, make ‘book bloc’ shields, and cut red squares for the evening march. At 6PM, there will be a teach in/speak out assembly about the Quebec student strike, the emergency laws, and the criminalization of dissent, followed by a number of self-organized lectures, workshops, skill-shares, and discussions.
In coordination with Quebec students who have been holding nightly assemblies, there will also be an assembly and march originating from Washington Square Park at 8PM to celebrate the successes of the student movement and to march against repressive anti-protest laws worldwide.

On this day, in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Quebec, we will paint the town red.

Malav Kanuga is a doctoral student in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, NY and editor of the publishing imprint Common Notions.

That free-thinking even-handed paper of record

Even handed as always, the Guardian media ads pages today carries two ‘provocative’ ads for Torturer and Abuser. Ironic ‘sick joke’ ads that eventually ask us to log on to the website for the rehabilitation NGO Freedom from Torture. So far so transparent, a senior human rights abuser is needed for ‘A militia group in Central Africa’ and a senior torturer is needed by the ‘Government of a Middle East state’. Oh the wit. I guess the Guardian copy editor thought these would be ok, and not grotesque renderings of undifferentiated Middle East and Africa as land of despots, because the next page, or tomorrow, or all next week, there would be exposés of USA tortures in Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, etc and British abuses via deportations, immigration raids, complicity with the US and all that. But, undermining such even-handedness, today’s edition clearly ran out of space for anything acknowledging Western abuses. Only in the darker nations, where presumably irony is not lost, and prejudice excused, does Freedom from Torture want to operate its humour. When the international criminal court indicts Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy, and has already locked up the Bush boys, Gunshot Cheney and Tony Bliar, for good, will we look back and say, well done vigilant Guardian editors, your objectivity is sound, and the name of your paper not a cipher for panto.

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Update: the freedom from torture website helpfully completes the geo-imperial slur framing with its third ad, for a kidnapper in South Asia. Excellent – a return to growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Update 2: And if you do click on the link, look for their video with its seeds metaphors and its water torture feature in their reception room. ‘Torture is bad’ – they campaign to tell people that. I can only agree.

May Day London 2012

MAYDAY-FLYER-A5-2012

May Day has been celebrated in London since the 1880s. The Committee has ensured this key day of international solidarity is marked every May 1st. Despite often being ignored by the mass media, the celebrations have maintained the traditions of unity and solidarity in London.

The London May Day has been a unique bringing together of trade unionists, workers from the many international communities in London, pensioners, anti-globalisation organisations, students, political bodies and many others in a show of working class unity (see our supporters list). The whole theme of May Day is unity and solidarity – across the city, across the country, across the world. Three constant calls have been made – trade union rights, human rights, international solidarity. We have been proud that a vital and major part of the March are workers from the different international communities in London – a practical expression of working class solidarity. Along with the solid support of trade union organisations, these have been the bed rocks of LMDOC

We continue the demand, adopted by the whole trade union movement in the 1970s, for May 1st to be a public holiday. The Labour Government of the time imposed the divisive decision to make the nearest Monday a Bank Holiday. This created many difficulties and separated Britain from virtually every other European country that celebrates May Day on 1st May. The anti-union laws of the Tories further pressured the movement and made participation in May Day difficult. But in the last 5 years May Day has been growing.

We have held a major march each year, whether going to Wapping in the mid-80s, supporting Sky Chef workers or Rover & Ford workers in 2001 and 2002. LMDOC also responded quickly to the fascist bombings in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in 1999 by involving those communities in the March, showing in a clear practical way the solidarity of the organised trade union movement, an important message to the right.

In 2001 we tied up with key sections of the anti-capitalist globalisation movement who had been campaigning on May Day. The common concerns about exploitation around the world, the role of multinationals and the advocates of aggressive free trade agendas meant there was the basis for unity – the basis of May Day. In 2001 and 2002 this swelled the ranks of the demonstration and introduced new aspects of May Day. Each year May Day in London has sought to unite with different campaigns and activities to keep the action very relevant to current challenges and expand those getting involved in May Day. A key victory of 2002 was getting use of Trafalgar Square on working days and the encouragement of the Mayor to make the Square a focus of activity for Londoners, as it has been since it was created.

2004 saw the Rally followed by an anti-racist festival with ARA; a joint May Day with the TUC in 2008 against the antiunion laws; each year focussing on key issues for workers – in London and across the world.

Social Fabric Symposium 10.3.2012

Social Fabric symposium

Discussions, talks and performances around textile production from guest speakers including trade unionists, artists and academics

Mill label, 1930s, courtesy of Jyotindra Jain and Mr. Abhishek Poddar

How do textiles affect the way we think about art, society and politics? The Social Fabric symposium invites contemporary artists, art historians, curators and cultural theorists to explore this question in a day of presentations and debate.

Taking Iniva’s Social Fabric exhibition as its starting point, it aims to explore textile production and consumption in relation to global trade, labour and radical politics.

In partnership with the Royal College of Art

Speakers

  • Professor Sarat Maharaj
  • Professors Janis Jefferies (Goldsmiths, Univeristy of London)
  • Professor John Hutnyk (Goldmsiths, Univeristy of London)
  • Carol Tulloch (TrAIN Senior Research Fellow)
  • Kit Hammonds (Curating contemporary art lecturer, RCA),
  • Sudhir Patwardhan (Social Fabric exhibiting artist)
  • Alice Creischer (Social Fabric exhibiting artist)
  • Slavs and Tatars (art collective)
  • Grant Watson Iniva’s Senior Curator and Research Associate

Symposium overview

This symposium addresses two basic themes relating to textiles as medium, commodity and ubiquitous presence in everyday life.

Departing from the exhibition Social Fabric at Rivington Place, speakers will draw out the connection between textiles and social processes – the link with patterns of globalised trade, contact between cultures, and textile production as a site of organised labour.

The second strand of the symposium looks at the way artists, art historians and curators have chosen textiles as an area of research, drawn by its relationship to the topics outlined above – demonstrating their reasons for making textile materials and references central to their artworks and exhibition projects.

The Social Fabric symposium highlights how this subject touches on a wide range of different aspects of culture and society, something reflected in the line-up for the day. Speakers with backgrounds in textiles, art, cultural studies and politics, will have a rare opportunity to converse and provide audiences a unique opportunity to join this discussion.

See the full programme for the day here

Venue:

The Tab Centre
2 Austin Street
London
Greater London
E2 7NB

Book online:

Book online here. If you have enquiries please call 0207 749 1240 or emailbookings@rivingtonplace.org.

NB. For a concessionary rate (students, over 60s, unemployed) please enter the promotional code iniva_concession. For group bookings of more than 4 people please contact Rivington Place reception.

Event details

Type: Symposium
Location: The Tab Centre
Date: 10 Mar 2012
9:30am – 6pm
Admission: £25 (£15 concessions) + booking fee

Gotcha moment for Cameron

#

The manner of Gaddafi’s death is obscene.

The associated reprisals exceed comprehension.

This was to defend Misrata – here – with a No Fly zone.

Nothing had flown for quite some time.

Enboldened, Cameron is also now poised for harsh responses in the all too civil war that is domestic politics.

Shame – the world cannot continue like this.

99 per cent or 99.9999 percent or any other fractional carve-up, we need a ruthless criticism of everything that exists in order to bring ourselves to understand what we are trying to do.

What we are trying to do is oust Cameron, and Clagg, and Millipede. Away with all gods.

One, two, many camps.

Occupy Zindabad!

Internationalise all areas #occupylsx #occupywallst

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The Internationale in many versions:
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 Comment: Internationalise all areas
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The Internationale–Red Army Choir and Orchestra, High Quality Stereo Version!
‎”The Internationale” performed by the Red Army Choir and Orchestra. Rousing high quality stereo version! As you listen to this inspiring song, remember those…
http://youtu.be/4tDNefrtJrg
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The Internationale” conducted by Arturo Toscanini–originally BANNED
http://www.youtube.com
In 1944, to honor the Allied victory in Italy, the great Arturo Toscanini–a refugee from Fascisim in his home country–decided to conduct a performance of V…
Internationalise all areas! http://youtu.be/2OPvWFDzDlA

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Some of these clips come with pretty amazing ads added by Google – this one had, when I watched it (I imagine they are somewhat randomized) an link for a piece ‘Exposing the lies and crimes of Greenpeace': http://youtu.be/dxqpTJRlbOE

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with Chinese politicians and military personnel
http://youtu.be/28WbSInXDPA – this one too has anti Greenpeace ads all over it. Is it just this clip or is it a targeted algorithm – as if I needed telling that Greenpeace was dodgy – from the other end of the scale though.
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Soviet October Revolution Parade, 1977 Part I Парад 7 ноября
John Hutnyk Internationalise all areas! http://youtu.be/dxqpTJRlbOE

This is the parade in Moscow’s Red Square, devoted to the 60th anniversary of th…
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The Internationale in North Korea
http://youtu.be/xa3vqgTGjsE
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North Korean girl singing The Internationale
http://youtu.be/kGNuR0ml7QA

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1 May in Cuba – The Internationale http://youtu.be/FDmSzDtkZYw
Internationalise all arias!

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International Anthem in Spanish (From land and Freedom, which I know is somewhat problematic, but… internationalize!
http://youtu.be/WJ8DhXgPjfg
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The Internationale in English
http://youtu.be/dcXNXKtu8z4
Comment John Hutnyk: internationalise all arrears!

Statement from #occupylsx

What appears to be the first statement from the London Occupation… is indeed a bit anti-theory – which I agree is strange because it comes out of a group sitting around thinking about what to do – and the demands are only an initial and somewhat abstract step towards building an alternative – yes, actually, how does one nationalize a bank?, I would very much like to see a guide for that – and yet this is wholly necessary: the effort to make something work beyond the repetitious call for ‘another world is possible’ is also here… Maybe its a bit ‘end is nigh’ in tone, and overly reliant on some ‘separate’ labour movement that will come like the cavalry to make us serious, and it flirts with the usual anarcho anti-Leninism that mistakes the British Trotskyite swamp with the Left… but on the whole, I like and welcome this and see it as an improvement on the brand-label slogans that have been our fare so far. Join us in the streets… I would put this entire text on my banner with just a few modifications – and openness to more ‘demands’ – there are always many demands – which is a good thing, no.

From now on there is only action - open letter ( via email )
Dear comrades,

From now on there is only action. The theories are nice to have – the theory
of horizontalism, of communes, of erotic revolt against the capitalist
oppression of our bodies. But the global crisis is moving fast. Whether you
are the Greek Communist Party, or UKUncut, or Anonymous, or Die Linke or
Lulzsec, or Zizek or just some gang of kids on a corner that likes one kind
of music and hates another: there is no time left for convincing others.

We have to act together.

Capitalism is about to experience a moment of breakdown. The Eurozone’s
financial system is bust: the result will be either a chaotic series of
defaults, provoking involuntary nationalisations and temporary abolition of
market forces by the ruling elite (short selling bans, bans on CDS); or we
will be saved from this by a pre-emptive abolition of the market in
sovereign debt, bank debt, credit derivatives etc.

This stark alternative explains the inaction of Merkel, Trichet, Barosso,
Lagarde: the only plan possible to pre-empt disaster is, to them, disaster:
it is the involuntary socialisation of the finance system.

We have got to this moment of mass, simultaneous, global occupation of space
in the cities of the world through a painful process.

Committed minorities put their bodies in the way of harm: from Climate Camp
to Gaza to Tahrir Square to Syntagma to Wall Street. There is a natural
feeling of jealousy, of ownership, among those who got us this far: that the
new masses being dragged onto the cold pavements do not understand the finer
points of theory, were not kettled the year before, were not part of this or
that iconic Facebook group.

But get ready for something bigger: the labour movements of the world are
grinding slowly into action. Cumbersome, slow, bureaucratic, hierarchical,
given to forming a committee to solve a problem that can be sorted out with
an iPhone. Yes. But decisive. In Greece right now, workers are doing what a
molotov cocktail cannot: stopping the printing of tax forms, stopping the
IMF delegations from even checking into their hotel rooms.

Right now the problem of the spontaneous movements, wherever they have set
up camp, is their failure to articulate with the levers of control currently
held by the rich elite. In a period before a crisis, or a period of
hopelessness, this is not a problem: creating the alternative nucleus of a
better world does not need one to get dirty in the business of the possible.
Living despite capitalism was a good idea and still is. Demanding the
impossible was, and remains, an act essential to liberate one’s mind.

But.

The crisis is going to bring the impossible onto the agenda. It will be
necessary to construct a pathway from where we are to what we want to
achieve.

Failure to connect with the levers of power, of policy, of the actual, of
the concrete always leave opposition movements open to being used as a walk
on army for the reformists: reform by riot – a division of labour by which a
kid in a hoodie goes to prison for two years and a man in a suit gains
sudden acceptance of his liberal reform plans – is as long as the history of
capitalism.

It is too late for that now.

The movement needs to have demands: not impossible ones but concrete ones.
Not schematic, drawn from the theories of various left philosophers but
based on action. The movement should combine demands, objectives, with the
new means of achieving them: where the social democrat calls for
nationalisation, the movement of the masses calls for decentralised social
ownership and takes physical control of the seized assets.

It will come down to this in practice. Soon numerous European banks are
going to go bust; maybe even some states. In some places ATMs will close.
There will be a right wing backlash: the authoritarians and the racists are
swarming to join the riot squads and the reserve military formations to get
their chance to break our heads. They will break the heads of migrants, the
oppressed; narratives of racial and religious purity will appear; narratives
of “national economic interest: dead for decades will be revived. It is
possible to live "despite capitalism"  - it is not possible to live "despite
quasi fascism": there is no space in right wing crisis capitalism for
anything - first books burn, then bodies.

In the 1930s fascism won because the workers movement and the progressive
left refused to unite in action, letting their differences –not just of
politics but of lifestyle and of historical rivalry – get in the way of
unity.

Today, with social media, instant unity is possible between a variety of
people, and it can last microseconds or long enough to take and hold a
square. The united front is replaced by the flashmob. Soon we are going to
have to take and hold banks, insurance companies, pension funds. And we are
going to have to keep the system running – the system many of us would see
destroyed – until it can be morphed, reformed, dismantled in a way that does
not smash the lives of a whole generation.

We cannot leave politics to the politicians and economics to the economists,
reserving for ourselves only the streets, the camps, the symbolic act,
hilarious graffiti and acts of kindness.

We have to deconstruct and replace both mainstream politics and economics;
we cannot become passive consumers of the alternatives offered by the “great
and good” of the liberal left. It is for the exploited and oppressed to
create these alternatives themselves.

Comrades – do not be frightened of demands. They need not dominate us or
entrap us into hierarchies or timetables from the 20th century. The can
liberate us from the role of being the opera chorus: the spear carriers with
formidable presence whose ultimate role is as warm-up act for the political
divas of Labour, social-democracy, Stalinism and Green Party politics.

I demand – and you may join me if you wish, or amend, delete, reject – the
following:

Nationalise all banks that cannot raise capital to withstand the coming
sovereign debt crisis. Break them up. Create a state guarantee for deposits
but impose 100% losses on shareholders and bondholders. Repurpose what’s
left as development banks and small scale credit for working class
communities and business loans.

Create a socialised banking system – a mixed economy of utility banks,
non-profits, ethical banks, credit unions and mutual societies.

Impose – immediately and universally across Europe and wherever possible
elsewhere – uniform minimum standards for wages, employment rights, rights
for precarious workers. Impose from below: by refusing to work without them.
This will, at a stroke,  remove the possibility of the parallel,
cheap-labour economy that has corroded social solidarity in the rich
countries and regions of Europe. Commit ourselves to a high wage, high skill
economy, with massive state spending on upskilling and education.

Once this is done, the debate on how much growth we actually want and need
is a real one. Ie, it has a real outcome, not a theoretical warm glow in our
heads.

Statism and central planning are dead, discredited. But now, too, the free
market has failed. Rationality can be imposed on the economy, but from below
as well as above, and using the state as enabler of competition, creativity
and invention, destroying forever the Hayekian objection that rationality in
economics leads to “serfdom”.

Any fiscal union for Europe must be created on terms dictated by the
workers, the poor and the oppressed, not the dim elite who fucked things up
so badly.  It will involve transfers – of taxpayers money from the north to
the south. We are sorry about this, but it will.

The prize – and the only condition for this merger – is that we create a
unified social Europe – from Iraklion to Rekyavik – where social justice is
an inalienable right, and speculation, inequality and exploitation are a
jailable offence.

Our crisis is coming. The American crisis and the Chinese crisis will not be
long following. If we do it – this continent with its 1000 year traditions
of revolt, utopianism, bloodshed and craziness – it will prove to the world
it can be done. Others will follow.

Out of these meagre tents and chickpea soup kitchens will come the new
world. There is nowhere else for it to come from.

American Spring: ‘First we take Manhattan’

There are a couple of very interesting observations in the Lenin’s Tomb commentary upon the Occupy Wall Street circus (a circus yes, with the cops as clowns, dark knights of corporate order, threatening mayhem if you walk on a road).

I am particularly interested in the critique LT offers of the ‘list of demands’ that is not one. ‘Join the process’ is well and good, but inadequate when its clearly more than just a process call – but a need for solidarity when: ‘it must be a felicitous coincidence that JP Morgan Chase donated $4.6m to the New York Police Department on the same day that the same department engaged in a mass arrest of hundreds of#OccupyWallStreet activists marooned on the Brooklyn Bridge’.

If it can be said that ‘the occupation began with a deliberate strategy of having minimal concrete politics and no demands.  The idea was that the politics and tactics of the occupation would be agreed in the context of aparticipatory, open-ended symposium.  No doubt some of this is mired in what I would consider a destructive and caricatured anti-Leninism, but I can imagine it comes from real experiences and expresses legitimate desires’ then LT is correct to examine this. The assessment offered is fair, critical, but optimistic. Along the way, some excellent phrasings, for example the on the money appreciation of slogans: ‘The best slogan I’ve seen is, “How do we end the deficit?  End the war, Tax the rich.”  This has the virtue of being a popular demand, a concise point, and right on the money’ – right on the money, get it? Very good. But the section on rapid politicization after police crack-down rings true as well, and is reason to cheer. I think this is indicative of a wider atmosphere that we can diagnose in the anticipation of the coming actions in the UK as well – a politicization is underway, and directions are up for discussion. That itself is of interest.

Read the rest here:

LENIN'S TOMB

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 02, 2011

First we take Manhattan

Wall Street’s famously chaste, humble bearing may not be the secret of its charm.  When you ask what is, you begin to realise what the Right has accomplished.  It has plausibly retailed something as banal as markets, and all the variations and derivatives thereof, as a libidinised field of popular (competitive) participation, the final source of all wealth/value (stock markets delivering oodles of the stuff like ducks farting out golden eggs), and, if this isn’t a tautology, a genre of erotica.  The insurance company as an aphrodisiac.  Yet it had to occur to someone to give Goldman Sachs and allies something to worry about, a something from which they have thus far been protected.  Under the Obama administration, which treats the quack orthodoxies of investment bankers as technocratic panaceas, the politically dominant fraction within the US ruling class has rarely seemed more powerful and at ease.  In their home city, the banks and traders have colonised the political system to the extent that one of their own sons, Michael Bloomberg, can take office and actually run the city as a favour to them.  (Bloomberg declines remuneration for his services.)  This is 21st Century philanthropy.

“The whole world is watching,” the protesters chant. No doubt. The question is whether any of those watching will take this as a cue to join the occupation in solidarity.  Admittedly it is already an over-worked reference, but there are compelling, if distant, echoes of Tahrir Square in New York (and now, I understand, financial districts in Boston, Miami, Detroit, San Francisco, etc.), in the sense of a nascent attempt to find a new model commune.  What the occupiers seek to create is both a rallying point for oppositional forces, and a model of participatory democracy that, if replicated, would give popular constituencies the ability and authority to solve their problems.  We’ll come back to the model of self-government being debated in Zuccotti Park, but as far as rallying opposition forces and pricking the mediasphere goes, the occupation has been having some success. The critical moment has been the participation of the organised labour movement, with the direct involvement of transport and steel workers, and the solidarity of Tahrir Square protesters.  (A mass strike by transport workers in Egypt has just won a major victory, gaining a 200% pay rise, just months after the army outlawed strikes).  The context of which it partakes is a germinal revival of class struggle in the United States.  Doug Henwood, who initially expressed reservations about the (lack of) politics of the initiative, describes the situation as “inspiring”.  This is why the initiative has been greeted with the predictable sequence of tactful silence from officials, followed by open hostility, police brutality, threatening murmurs from Bloomberg and, finally, last night’s mass arrest – which I would imagine follows orders from the mayor’s office. Bloomberg, you’ll be relieved to know, is not exercised on behalf of multi-billionaires like himself, but those Wall Street traders on a measly $40-50k, inconvenienced by anticapitalist wildlife.
and it continues after a vid: read the rest, from para three: here

Shopping Žižek – a commentary on a commentary (an addendum to ✪ 11 more notes 12&3 on #LondonRiots etc)

Slavoj Žižek’s commentary on the #LondonRiots indented, with my intemperate interjections interspersed in smaller italics (not indented). i – i – i – i. What I have done is copied the entire text from his LRB article (available free) and entered that here, in original order, nothing excised, so I could then add my own commentary, in italics, between the lines, So to speak. If you want to read the unadulterated version go direct to theLRB link here. Why do this sort of interruption – especially of someone from whom we learn a lot? Maybe I thought the joke title was only a little bit funny…

Shoplifters of the World Unite

Slavoj Žižek on the meaning of the riots

You are invited to read this free essay from the London Review of BooksSubscribe now to access every article from every fortnightly issue of the London Review of Books, including the entire archive of over 12,500 essays and reviews.

Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history: when something happens just once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when the same event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding. When Napoleon lost at Leipzig in 1813, it looked like bad luck; when he lost again at Waterloo, it was clear that his time was over. The same holds for the continuing financial crisis. In September 2008, it was presented by some as an anomaly that could be corrected through better regulations etc; now that signs of a repeated financial meltdown are gathering it is clear that we are dealing with a structural phenomenon.

So this is a familiar and yet slightly weird start. SZ has this bit about the much beloved Hegel, but he well knows the Marx routine from the Eighteenth Brumaire, which glosses the repetition of events and adds ‘but Hegel forgot to say that they happen the second time as farce’. SZ used this quip as a book title: ‘First as Tragedy, Then as Farce’ in 2009, and explained the gloss on Marx as an IQ test for those who might think a discussion of a return to communism after a century of totalitarianism was bad comedy – of course anyone who reacted like that should be forcibly dealt with, and he suggests confiscating the book from them. It turns out the book was a thoughtful commentary upon Sept 11 2011 and the 2008 financial crash… along the way providing some choice critiques of Hardt and Negri, democracy, liberals and so on, teaching us that: ‘we live in apocalyptic times … each of the three proceses of proletarianization refer to an apocalyptic end point: ecological breakdown, the biogenetic reduction of humans to manipulable machines, total digital control over our lives … at all these levels, thinGs are approaching a zero-point: “the end of times is near”‘ (p92-93)

We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo: if we did, the argument runs, the rich would have no incentive to invest, fewer jobs would be created and we would all suffer. The only way to save ourselves from hard times is for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. What should the poor do? What can they do?

Yes, nice words, nice questions. In an earlier commentary, on the French youth uprising in 2005, SZ mocked the ‘‘search for deeper meaning or messages hidden in these outbursts’ as an ‘hermeneutic temptation’ that ‘needs to be resisted’(Žižek 2008:65). Well and good. Do not offer us the meaning of the riots then – something like Mao’s advice to the Vietcong when they asked for assistance, Mao said ‘tighten your belts’. Ho Chi Minh replied ‘please send us belts’. Some advice misses the mark, but of course we are on the way to Paris…

Although the riots in the UK were triggered by the suspicious shooting of Mark Duggan, everyone agrees that they express a deeper unease – but of what kind? As with the car burnings in the Paris banlieues in 2005, the UK rioters had no message to deliver. (There is a clear contrast with the massive student demonstrations in November 2010, which also turned to violence. The students were making clear that they rejected the proposed reforms to higher education.) This is why it is difficult to conceive of the UK rioters in Marxist terms, as an instance of the emergence of the revolutionary subject; they fit much better the Hegelian notion of the ‘rabble’, those outside organised social space, who can express their discontent only through ‘irrational’ outbursts of destructive violence – what Hegel called ‘abstract negativity’.

This rabble comment – intentional cheap provocation – is pretty unwelcome alongside the reference to Paris, which is surely there to remind us that after the death of Bouna Toure and Zyed Benna, Sarkozy had called the rioters a rabble – or racaille. And why is it so hard to grasp the uprising in ‘Marxist terms’ – as if these were some fixed codec, always the same, never to be worked out anew in each contingency. Here we have people – well, so-called ‘rabble’ – breaking the bond between exchange value and commodity and its hard to see a Marxist angle? I find that pretty strange. Best look more closely for what is really going on. Let us how we don’t get some smuggled in parable about perception and the jedi mind-trick parallax wheelbarrow syndrome… oh no, its roll out number 346 of the barrow gag:

There is an old [old and worn - ed] story about a worker suspected of stealing [spurious accusation against the worker here] : every evening, as he leaves the factory, the wheelbarrow he pushes in front of him is carefully inspected. The guards find nothing; it is always empty. Finally, the penny drops: what the worker is stealing are the wheelbarrows themselves [the worker makes the wheelbarrows, the theft is by the factory owner who employs guards to ensure that the worker offers labour for free]. The guards were missing the obvious truth [truth, or 'hermeneutic temptation at play here], just as the commentators on the riots have done [yes, we can agree perhaps that the commentators are the guards... stupid guards] . We are told that the disintegration of the Communist regimes in the early 1990s signalled the end of ideology[votextual shift of analytical level - I like it] : the time of large-scale ideological projects culminating in totalitarian catastrophe was over; we had entered a new era of rational, pragmatic politics. If the commonplace that we live in a post-ideological era is true in any sense, it can be seen in this recent outburst of violence. [here comes the zero-degree point again] This was zero-degree protest, a violent action demanding nothing.[nothing?] In their desperate attempt to find meaning in the riots, the sociologists and editorial-writers obfuscated the enigma the riots presented.

At one level, anything becomes enigmatic if you squint at it long enough. But I have been looking at this Zero degree point a long time and SZ has said some enigmatic things that keep on repeating. We should ask how the riots are a ‘violent action demanding nothing’? We can go back a bit to and earlier ‘event’ horizon and hear SZ say something that is now becoming very familiar. In his book ‘Welcome to the Desert of the real’, again citing Hegel, he had discussed New York on Sept 11 2011, suggesting ‘‘the ultimate aim of the attacks was not some hidden or obvious ideological agenda but – precisely in the Hegelian sense of the term – to (re)introduce the dimension of absolute negativity into our daily lives’ (Žižek 2002:142). Basically, the attackers had no message, and no list of demands:  “The spectacular explosion of the WTC towers was not simply a symbolic act (in the sense of an act whose aim is to ‘deliver a message’): it was primarily an explosion of lethal jouissance, a perverse act of making oneself the instrument of the big Other’s jouissance” (Žižek 2002:141). Later, in the book ‘Violence’, SZ calls terrorist attacks and suicide bombings a ‘counter violence’ that is a ‘blind passage a l’acte’ and an ‘implicit admission of impotence’ (Žižek 2008:69). We might pass over the curiosity that Žižek chooses the infirmities of blindness and impotence to characterise the terrorist suicide bomber, as if the twin towers indicated a doubled scene of masturbation (too much and you lose your sight) and castration (impotence, symbolic castration of the towers, mummy daddy, invocation of old psychoanalytic staples). But the task of a critical commentary is not just to stop and stare at the primal scene of nothing.

The protesters, though underprivileged and de facto socially excluded, weren’t living on the edge of starvation. People in much worse material straits, let alone conditions of physical and ideological oppression, have been able to organise themselves into political forces with clear agendas. The fact that the rioters have no programme is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted: it tells us a great deal about our ideological-political predicament and about the kind of society we inhabit, a society which celebrates choice but in which the only available alternative to enforced democratic consensus is a blind acting out. Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, or even as a utopian project, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst. What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?

No organization? And ‘the rioters have no programme’? ‘Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself”. This blind acting out, deployed to the WTC in New York or to London, and similar to SZ’s view of the slums, where people are  ’in dire need of minimal forms of self-organization’ Parallax View (Žižek 2006:268),  is deeply problematic – why would we not diagnose this as a distortion of a kind of vanguardism, as an ego-driven projection on the part of the commentator who wants to critique the commentators, in a sub negative dialectic?

Alain Badiou has argued that we live in a social space which is increasingly experienced as ‘worldless’: in such a space, the only form protest can take is meaningless violence. Perhaps this is one of the main dangers of capitalism: although by virtue of being global it encompasses the whole world, it sustains a ‘worldless’ ideological constellation in which people are deprived of their ways of locating meaning. The fundamental lesson of globalisation is that capitalism can accommodate itself to all civilisations, from Christian to Hindu or Buddhist, from West to East: there is no global ‘capitalist worldview’, no ‘capitalist civilisation’ proper. The global dimension of capitalism represents truth without meaning.

Badiou? He too thinks there is no message: Badiou writing of September 11, 2001, starts his essay on ‘Philosophy and the War on Terror’ by saying ‘It was an enormous murder, lengthily premeditated, and yet silent. No one claimed responsibility’ (‘Polemics’ 2006:15). The fundamental lesson is not to see any of this as programmatic, until I tell you too. The main contradiction is here – no to the mute terrorists, rabble, rioters, commentators, yes to wordless world ‘events’ as interpreted by the blind jouissance of those who would still, despite all this, draw fundamental ‘lessons’ from globalization. Indeed, lessons, but not truth without meaning – rather, an analysis of contemporary capital that cuts.

The first conclusion to be drawn from the riots, therefore, is that both conservative and liberal reactions to the unrest are inadequate. [Yes, agreed]. The conservative reaction was predictable: there is no justification for such vandalism; one should use all necessary means to restore order; to prevent further explosions of this kind we need not more tolerance and social help but more discipline, hard work and a sense of responsibility. What’s wrong with this account is not only that it ignores the desperate social situation pushing young people towards violent outbursts but, perhaps more important, that it ignores the way these outbursts echo the hidden premises of conservative ideology itself. [yes,and with reactionary ultra-punitive 'fightback retribution when the ideological goes wrong].When, in the 1990s, the Conservatives launched their ‘back to basics’ campaign, its obscene complement was revealed by Norman Tebbitt: ‘Man is not just a social but also a territorial animal; it must be part of our agenda to satisfy those basic instincts of tribalism and territoriality.’ This is what ‘back to basics’ [is this a cimena reference to the Christina Aguilera video?] was really about: the unleashing of the barbarian [Conan!] who lurked beneath our apparently civilised, bourgeois society, through the satisfying of the barbarian’s ‘basic instincts’ [more film refs!] . In the 1960s, Herbert Marcuse introduced the concept of ‘repressive desublimation’ to explain the ‘sexual revolution’: human drives could be desublimated, allowed free rein, and still be subject to capitalist control – viz, the porn industry [see, its was always heading to video]. On British streets during the unrest, what we saw was not men reduced to ‘beasts’, but the stripped-down form of the ‘beast’ produced by capitalist ideology [and some sort of 'Wild in the Streets' scary Zombie movie]

What SZ surely means is not what ‘we’ saw, but what the press and the commentators and the conservatives saw. What we saw was a lot different. From looting and violence to laughter and excitement, from community solidarity and euphoria to reactionary not in my back yard nimbyism. Maybe SZ means ‘what we were made to see’ when he refers to the stripped-down beast here. Surely he is not saying this was the ontological status of the streets at the time. This so-called beast was laughing, chanting, organized…

Meanwhile leftist liberals, no less predictably, stuck to their mantra about social programmes and integration initiatives, the neglect of which has deprived second and third-generation immigrants of their economic and social prospects: violent outbursts are the only means they have to articulate their dissatisfaction. Instead of indulging ourselves in revenge fantasies, we should make the effort to understand the deeper causes of the outbursts. Can we even imagine what it means to be a young man in a poor, racially mixed area, a priori suspected and harassed by the police, not only unemployed but often unemployable, with no hope of a future? The implication is that the conditions these people find themselves in make it inevitable that they will take to the streets. The problem with this account, though, is that it lists only the objective conditions for the riots. To riot is to make a subjective statement, implicitly to declare how one relates to one’s objective conditions.

Who is this ‘we’ you talking about white man? David Starkey and the stench of bourgeois race supremacy lines up alongside this kind of comment – what we can imagine about them others, them beasts, them out on the streets. Time to take a walk outside SZ. Am I too ‘cynical’ [its coming] in thinking that the madness of actually hearing from the youth is possible, necessary even. A grime track listing anyone? For starters. Who ‘we’?

We live in cynical times, and it’s easy to imagine a protester who, caught looting and burning a store and pressed for his reasons, would answer in the language used by social workers and sociologists, citing diminished social mobility, rising insecurity, the disintegration of paternal authority, the lack of maternal love in his early childhood. He knows what he is doing, then, but is doing it nonetheless.

Imagine a protester.. you may say I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one who thinks it might be possible to do more than offer an easy mind game that does ventriloquy for social work – the catch here is the last clause of the above paragraph – the fetishists dilemma – knowing what’s going on and doing it nevertheless.

It is meaningless to ponder which of these two reactions, conservative or liberal, is the worse: as Stalin would have put it, they are both worse, and that includes the warning given by both sides that the real danger of these outbursts resides in the predictable racist reaction of the ‘silent majority’. One of the forms this reaction took was the ‘tribal’ activity of the local (Turkish, Caribbean, Sikh) communities which quickly organised their own vigilante units to protect their property. Are the shopkeepers a small bourgeoisie defending their property against a genuine, if violent, protest against the system; or are they representatives of the working class, fighting the forces of social disintegration? Here too one should reject the demand to take sides. The truth is that the conflict was between two poles of the underprivileged: those who have succeeded in functioning within the system versus those who are too frustrated to go on trying. The rioters’ violence was almost exclusively directed against their own. The cars burned and the shops looted were not in rich neighbourhoods, but in the rioters’ own. The conflict is not between different parts of society; it is, at its most radical, the conflict between society and society, between those with everything, and those with nothing, to lose; between those with no stake in their community and those whose stakes are the highest.

They are ‘both worse’ is Lenin, not Stalin – ‘both are worse’  from ‘What is to Be Done’ part 1, where Lenin is talking about two competing resolutions of the Jewish Workers Union in 1901. Surely a good Leninist should not mischievously be laying traps like this – checking to see if we are paying attention, misattributing classic quotes from the Vlad to Jo. SZ had already attributed this to Stalin in ‘Welcome to the Desert of the Real’ so I suspect its a moment of digital apocalypse cut and paste. The demand to deliver text in a rush. And I am doing it here – cut and say, paste and pay. But this is in the LRB, for which we are encouraged to subscribe. 

Zygmunt Bauman characterised the riots as acts of ‘defective and disqualified consumers’: more than anything else, they were a manifestation of a consumerist desire violently enacted when unable to realise itself in the ‘proper’ way – by shopping. As such, they also contain a moment of genuine protest, in the form of an ironic response to consumerist ideology: ‘You call on us to consume while simultaneously depriving us of the means to do it properly – so here we are doing it the only way we can!’ The riots are a demonstration of the material force of ideology – so much, perhaps, for the ‘post-ideological society’. From a revolutionary point of view, the problem with the riots is not the violence as such, but the fact that the violence is not truly self-assertive. It is impotent rage and despair masked as a display of force; it is envy masked as triumphant carnival.

Perhaps the problem with the commentaries are that they are not riotous enough, not triumphant, not able to see a revolution in carnival, in a moment, in assertion, even if not the ‘true self’ of the ideology carrying (where did you get that lovely outfit) demonstration of ‘irony’ is lagging behind.

The riots should be situated in relation to another type of violence that the liberal majority today perceives as a threat to our way of life: terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. In both instances, violence and counter-violence are caught up in a vicious circle, each generating the forces it tries to combat. In both cases, we are dealing with blind passages à l’acte, in which violence is an implicit admission of impotence. The difference is that, in contrast to the riots in the UK or in Paris, terrorist attacks are carried out in service of the absolute Meaning provided by religion.

This is a cut and past of the exact words from SZ’s book ’Violence’ that I discuss as note 20 in the second of 11 Notes (here). I could cut and paste to here, but then, nah. I repeat often enough as well. Its also not a crime, nor blind act, and certainly not religion.

But weren’t the Arab uprisings a collective act of resistance that avoided the false alternative of self-destructive violence and religious fundamentalism? Unfortunately, the Egyptian summer of 2011 will be remembered as marking the end of revolution, a time when its emancipatory potential was suffocated. Its gravediggers are the army and the Islamists. The contours of the pact between the army (which is Mubarak’s army) and the Islamists (who were marginalised in the early months of the upheaval but are now gaining ground) are increasingly clear: the Islamists will tolerate the army’s material privileges and in exchange will secure ideological hegemony. The losers will be the pro-Western liberals, too weak – in spite of the CIA funding they are getting – to ‘promote democracy’, as well as the true agents of the spring events, the emerging secular left that has been trying to set up a network of civil society organisations, from trade unions to feminists. The rapidly worsening economic situation will sooner or later bring the poor, who were largely absent from the spring protests, onto the streets. There is likely to be a new explosion, and the difficult question for Egypt’s political subjects is who will succeed in directing the rage of the poor? Who will translate it into a political programme: the new secular left or the Islamists?

This, though it might seem so to some, is not off message. The link to Egypt is not over cooked, the implications are important, there is something to learn. The pity might be that we do not also get a commentary on Libya, where another part of this struggle is being played out, not between Islamists and army in cahoots, but NATO imperialism and an opposition, a cruel twist on the colonial project, very useful for those keen to not, especially not, allow any links between the spirit of Tahrir Square, and Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, … Athens… Madrid… Malaysia… Do you remember how very very keen the British police were to not permit a Trafalgar Square occupation? However rife with contradictory forces these events were, they have meaning, and meanings struggled over, and changing, on the streets and in the commentariat, but also, perhaps, too early to tell.

The predominant reaction of Western public opinion to the pact between Islamists and the army will no doubt be a triumphant display of cynical wisdom: we will be told that, as the case of (non-Arab) Iran made clear, popular upheavals in Arab countries always end in militant Islamism. Mubarak will appear as having been a much lesser evil – better to stick with the devil you know than to play around with emancipation. Against such cynicism, one should remain unconditionally faithful to the radical-emancipatory core of the Egypt uprising.

Yes. Zindabad! But also the radical emancipatory core of the London uprisings. Even if this is still to come (yes, reference to Derrida intended – we are not abandoning reading theory, of course we are not – we will read it in the afternoons, between the square and the shops, in the breaks between the meetings.

But one should also avoid the temptation of the narcissism of the lost cause: it’s too easy to admire the sublime beauty of uprisings doomed to fail. [special pleading]. Today’s left faces the problem of ‘determinate negation’: what new order should replace the old one after the uprising, when the sublime enthusiasm of the first moment is over? [change of tone?]. In this context, the manifesto of the Spanish indignados, issued after their demonstrations in May, is revealing. The first thing that meets the eye is the pointedly apolitical tone: ‘Some of us consider ourselves progressive, others conservative. Some of us are believers, some not. Some of us have clearly defined ideologies, others are apolitical, but we are all concerned and angry about the political, economic and social outlook that we see around us: corruption among politicians, businessmen, bankers, leaving us helpless, without a voice.’ [How is this apolitical? THe 'square' is doomed when it become a paragde ground for the trooping of uniform ideas. The square is a debate, and struggle, a contest of interpretations. SZ has a role here]. They make their protest on behalf of the ‘inalienable truths that we should abide by in our society: the right to housing, employment, culture, health, education, political participation, free personal development and consumer rights for a healthy and happy life.’ Rejecting violence, they call for an ‘ethical revolution. Instead of placing money above human beings, we shall put it back to our service. We are people, not products. I am not a product of what I buy, why I buy and who I buy from.’ [Who calls this? A Manifesto? There are many - were there not many different calls? What is the emancipatory core here?]  Who will be the agents of this revolution?[Indeed]. The indignados dismiss the entire political class, right and left, as corrupt and controlled by a lust for power, yet the manifesto nevertheless consists of a series of demands addressed at – whom? Not the people themselves: theindignados do not (yet) claim that no one else will do it for them, that they themselves have to be the change they want to see. And this is the fatal weakness of recent protests: they express an authentic rage which is not able to transform itself into a positive programme of sociopolitical change. They express a spirit of revolt without revolution.

Yes, this gets towards the core problem of the square. The need for a vanguard party. But what sort of party? A party of the celebrity academics interested in parading the ‘idea’ of communism? Or a communist party made in the square (the square, you hippy dip, is a metaphor, gettit?]. I’ll be for the political party, though perhaps I won’t join, and I’ll not want to join the sectarian slagging match of fraction and faction, or rather, waferism – ever smaller slices of who has got the quotes on the Krondstadt (or on what Lenin said when) just so. But still, a party of the new type, I’ll support. Also of the old type. Get out your Mao. Read it in the square, fellow travellers.

The situation in Greece looks more promising, probably owing to the recent tradition of progressive self-organisation (which disappeared in Spain after the fall of the Franco regime). But even in Greece, the protest movement displays the limits of self-organisation: protesters sustain a space of egalitarian freedom with no central authority to regulate it, a public space where all are allotted the same amount of time to speak and so on. When the protesters started to debate what to do next, how to move beyond mere protest, the majority consensus was that what was needed was not a new party or a direct attempt to take state power, but a movement whose aim is to exert pressure on political parties. This is clearly not enough to impose a reorganisation of social life. To do that, one needs a strong body able to reach quick decisions and to implement them with all necessary harshness.

I’m sorry. Are there not also contradictions in Greece? Is there not also a racist, rightist, nationalist element in Syntagma Square? This ending is weird, not because of the call for a Party and the denunciation of ‘putting pressure’ on other parties – yes, yes, of course, of course – but that this scene of self-organising is more promising than Spain or Egypt or London. Why? Is it because there are no Islamists as there are in Cairo? (I am sure there are some). Is it because there are no overly inclusive manifestos as in Spain? Ha. Is it because the Greeks are not shopping as in London? bargain! No, I think there are deeper reasons as to why the commentators are concerned with their distance from meaning. I have learnt a lot from reading these laments, but I think the special pleading to be allowed to say – the ego investment in having a sponsored paywall ad say – is to be studied as well. This too is a question of the kind of organization and kind of leadership there must be in the party to come. Yes, take a ticket and wait your turn. I took mine, in italics. Thanks.

Re-post: review of Where there is Light, 2004

Since today in Bradford there is the 30 years commemoration of the struggles around the case of the Bradford 12, and next saturday (23rd July 2011) a similar event in London (see here), I repost this review of ‘Where there is Light’, a novel by one of the perpetrators – an appreciation of the quietly explosive writing of Tariq Mehmood:

Weekly Worker 512 Thursday January 22 2004
‘Face up to the fight’ – by John Hutnyk Review of:
Tariq Mehmood, ‘While there is light’, Manchester, 2003, Comma Press, pp220, 7.95

Face up to the fight

Tariq Mehmood, ‘While there is light’, Manchester, 2003, Comma Press, pp220, �7.95

The travails of those who fight imperialism are long and brutal. Families torn asunder, friendships stretched and broken, lives crushed against the bars of prisons and the kicks of cops.

Tariq Mehmood’s novel mixes clarity of reflection with bittersweet agonies and a pained lament for loss. The loss is not only consequent upon the cruel conditions of an updated and as yet unfinished Raj – though the ways the legacy of colonialism plays out on the workings of northern England and north Punjab are not simply contemporary – and the lament is not just for the family, but for the stalled and failing political movements that would be a possible resistance.

Against the several significant historical backgrounds that shape the (so-called) post-colonial condition, Where there is light recounts the tale of Saleem Choudry returning to his parental village in north Punjab. The novel utilises three texts to tell its multi-sited tale – the first: a letter the disgruntled labour-migrated worker son writes to his mother, but which she cannot read; the second: the cassette tape recording the heart-torn and weary mother prepares for her son as she faces death, to which he cannot listen; and the third: the police-violence-extracted ‘confession’ which identifies Saleem as the ringleader of the Youth League fighting racist skinheads in Bradford in the early 1980s.

In these contexts, characters recount – more or less lyrically – various predicaments. The legacy of the partition violence with which England left a parting gift of train-filled bodies, hacked to death in sectarian frenzy, is one memory. An unrelated consequence is the position of disaffected youth, whose heritage could be the anti-colonial and workers’ movement but who, through seduction and distraction, are disconnected from their romantic and revolutionary roots. In place of the movements they try to build are the old religious hypocrisies that are but the first cry of an oppressed mass, misled by a self-interested leadership with thought only for comfort.

Saleem is arrested as a ‘terrorist’. This is a fictionalised account of what came to be known as the case of the Bradford 12, when Asian youths were charged with conspiracy after the discovery of petrol bombs. Saleem, out on bail, is flying back to Punjab to see his mother. A letter he had posted in a drunken rage the day before follows him through the post. He arrives too late to meet his mother (hospitals full of shit while the government builds atomic bombs). Scenes of lament and a difficult homecoming to a place that is no longer home are punctuated by a harrowing account of the arrest scene in Bradford and the interrogation, with full English police-style beatings, in the lockup before the trial.

The story works in these multiple places and concurrent times, along the way providing a meditation – angry, not passive – on a range of difficulties that are the lot of the ‘returnee’ to the site of colonial extraction. Saleem was sent to England as a boy to earn money for the family, from that country where the streets were paved with gold (but they were not). Returning to Pakistan, the sex scene in the movie The saint is censored, the passport and customs officers impose their delays and extract their percentage cut, the dilemma that values the life of a fly but not of kin relations is matched by the alacrity with which friends, and devout community leaders, pursue the duty-free booty with which Saleem returns. A well read tourist might recognise this lot, but not likely.

Self-mocking mockery of mock pieties, perhaps the portrayal of the whisky running business scam is the most blatant example of a hostility to religious hypocrisy that must be replaced by a more organised resistance. There are positive portrayals: the old mates from school who have not forgotten the one who left – even as they make merry with the desire to go themselves. In one sequence the contract that requires one both to give and take is considered fair trade for the prize of entry to Valaiti (Britain), despite full knowledge of what the prospective migrant will be forced to endure. Foreign, Vailaiti poison (cigarettes) is even better than local lung-rasping pleasures.

The one who inducts Saleem into the subtleties of communist solidarities – poignantly a white father who rescues him from a beating at the hands of his fascist son – is clear and insightful in his analysis of the mill workers and who profits most from those who labour under capital. Payara Singh tells of the heroes of the Punjab: of Uddam Singh and Baghat Singh, who fought the colonials with no thought for their own gain – a history that Saleem has to struggle to preserve – if you do not understand your past, how can you have hope for your future? The Manifesto is quoted, thought the words are mislaid.

Solidarities become a major theme. In the end those interrogated in the youth movement betray each other under duress, but we know the wider campaign mobilised a larger alliance and won the case for the Bradford 12, establishing self-defence as a legal defence in law. This is particularly important to remember today, as alleged ‘terrorists’ are routinely detained in the UK, profiled again as the enemy by the jihadis, Bush and Blair. By the end of the novel Valaiti has become England, Saleem is not a Trot but he reads, the cops know they are not going to win the case (but they make the charges in any case) and the movement continues.

Saleem does not know all that yet, but his personal resolution – he plays his mother’s tape, reads the letter, signs the forms – mean a realisation: that his history is one that requires him to face up to the fight (while there is light). He will return to struggle again.

John Hutnyk

______

come to the 30th Anniversary of the Bradford 12 meet.: Details here.

I do hope calling for Regime Change on Danish radio is treason!

Along with some eloquent comrades, this, for Danish listeners (English snippets) is a just broadcast interview about the current conjuncture, cuts, coalition shenanigans and possibilities for regime change in the UK… Download the pod-cast here. The first 12 minutes are Lara, Nina and I.

Britisk protestbevægelse

Europa lige nu 03. april 2011 kl. 17:10 på P1

En studerende på et britisk universitet skal fremover betale op til 75.000 kr om året i afgift til universitetet for at få lov til at studere.

Det er en del af den britiske regerings store projekt om at skære ned og øge brugerbetalingen.

- Vi føler os sat tilbage til Thatcher-tiden,  og fremover er det kun de riges børn, der får en uddannelse,  siger en britisk filosof, Nina Power,  mens en anden univeritetslærer, John Hutnyk på trods af besparelserne også glæder sig, for nu er de studerende begyndt at gide at læse Marx igen.

Hutnyk mener også, at briterne er ved at vågne op med en ny politisk bevidsthed – sidste week-end resulterede det i en efter britisk målestok usædvanlig stor demonstration – nemlig en halv million mennesker i Londons gader i protest mod de offentlige besparelser.

Download the pod-cast here

Looking forward to a June visit to see the Danes – Jeg savner dig.

STW: 10 Reasons to say no to western intervention in Libya

By Andrew Murray National Chair, Stop the War Coalition 14 March 2011 The political campaign to launch a military intervention in Libya – ostensibly on humanitarian grounds but with patently political ends in sight – is gathering steam among the NATO powers. A “no-fly zone” has now been urged by the Arab League – for the most part a collection of frightened despots desperate to get the US military still more deeply involved in the region.  That would be the start of a journey down slippery slope. 

Here are ten reasons to resist the siren calls for intervention:

  1. Intervention will violate Libya’s sovereignty.  This is not just a legalistic point – although the importance of observing international law should not be discounted if the big powers in the world are not to be given the green light run amok.  As soon as NATO starts to intervene, the Libyan people will start to lose control of their own country and future.
  2. Intervention can only prolong, not end the civil war.  “No-fly zones” will not be able to halt the conflict and will lead to more bloodshed, not less.
  3. Intervention will lead to escalation.  Because the measures being advocated today cannot bring an end to the civil war, the next demand will be for a full-scale armed presence in Libya, as in Iraq – and meeting the same continuing resistance.  That way lies decades of conflict.
  4. This is not Spain in 1936, when non-intervention meant helping the fascist side which, if victorious in the conflict, would only encourage the instigators of a wider war – as it did.  Here, the powers clamouring for military action are the ones already fighting a wider war across the Middle East and looking to preserve their power even as they lose their autocratic allies.  Respecting Libya’s sovereignty is the cause of peace, not is enemy.
  5. It is more like Iraq in the 1990s, after the First Gulf War.  Then, the US, Britain and France imposed no-fly zones which did not lead to peace – the two parties in protected Iraqi Kurdistan fought a bitter civil war under the protection of the no-fly zone – and did prepare the ground for the invasion of 2003.  Intervention may partition Libya and institutionalise conflict for decades.
  6. Or it is more like the situation in Kosovo and Bosnia.  NATO interference has not lead to peace, reconciliation or genuine freedom in the Balkans, just to endless corrupt occupations.
  7. Yes, it is about oil.  Why the talk of intervening in Libya, but not the Congo, for example?  Ask BP.
  8. It is also about pressure on Egyptian revolution – the biggest threat to imperial interests in the region.  A NATO garrison next door would be a base for pressure at least, and intervention at worst, if Egyptian freedom flowers to the point where it challenges western interests in the region.
  9. The hypocrisy gives the game away.  When the people of Bahrain rose against their US-backed monarchy and were cut down in the streets, there was no talk of action, even though the US sixth fleet is based there and could doubtless have imposed a solution in short order.  As top US republican Senator Lindsey Graham observed last month “there are regimes we want to change, and those we don’t”.  NATO will only ever intervene to strangle genuine social revolution, never to support it.
  10. Military aggression in Libya – to give it the righty name – will be used to revive the blood-soaked policy of ‘liberal interventionism’.  That beast cannot be allowed to rise from the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bradley Manning

SUNDAY March 20th. 2pm *U.S. Embassy/London- Join Us to Demand they “Stop Torturing Bradley Manning!

WHY?

To demand the end of the torture pf Bradley Manning in Quantico U.S. Marine Base, Virginia USA. Although 23 year old Bradley Manning is a U.S. Army intelligence officer he is being held without explanation in the largest U.S. Marine Base in the world! Bradley is being held, in effect, in isolation and sensory deprivation, his conditions are tortureous. Techniques finetuned at Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo have been unleashed on what U.S. authoriteis see as a nonviolent dissident within the U.S. war machine.

U.S. anti-war and human rights activists, lawyers, military veterans and the former commander of Quantico are heading down to Quantico this Sunday March 20 to demand justice for Bradley Manning. Others of us around the world will go on Sunday March 20 to U.S. embassies and sites of siginifiance in the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and do like wise. Consider joing us or initiating your own activity for Bradley Manning on Sunday March 20.
Youtube – Previous Jan. 17 demonstration for Bradley at Quantico
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4eNzokgRIw

Bradley has been accused of leaking, to WikiLeaks, footage of a U.S. helicopter gunship massacre in Iraq of 2 Reuters journalists, 9 Iraqi civilians and wounding the children in a vehicle that detoured from the “school run” to tend to the wounded and the dead. Those who carried out this massacre hve not been brought to account, the U.S. government wished to “shoot the messenger”.
http://www.collateralmurder.com/

We refuse to accept this. We hope you to do too? Show viisible solidarity with Bradley Manning this Sunday March 20. If not with us at the U.S. embassy at 2pm – in your own community, speak out at church, stand in your city centre demand Justice for Bradley Manning!
http://www.bradleymanning.org

LONDON EVENT
TIME? – Sunday March 20th. 2 pm

WHERE? – outside the U.S. Embassy, Gorsvenor Square.
Closest tube: Bond St.

SPEAKERS?
HIgh School Kidz from Brad’s Welsh Village
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/03/15…5324/

Bruce Kent – Long time British Peace Activist and Organiser.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Kent

Ben Griffin
SAS Iraq Combat Veteran, Reusenik when he refused a 2nd tour deouncing the war, gagged from speaking of his experiences by the M.O.D./ High Court.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Griffin_%28British_Arm…er%29

and others… more here

Jasmine

Could someone elaborate on why this term jasmine revolution keeps coming up? I’m genuinely unsure what it means. It is near invisible in the UK, or at least to me, but comrades in Europe have been using it with regularity.. It refers also to China then? That is completely off screen here in the UK right now. Bahrain too has disappeared off radar. Is it that the revolutions only appeal when they smell of jasmine, and when its British weapons used to kill protesters etc, suddenly its all swept off screen (pruned, mulched, thrown in the compost bin of media history).
Appallingly, Stop the War coalition have only managed a statement on their website saying no to interference – the sort of calls for action, demonstrations, candle light vigils even that were held in the run up to the Iraq invasion are conspicuously absent for this one. Is it the smell of jasmine that makes this potential war sweet? A phony war if ever there was one – and with the ‘colonial machine’ (arms sales, oil, development agenda) ready to roll back into Egypt, Tunisia etc, all the more reason to take the stench of these rotting flowers to the doorsteps our own governments and television/journalists.
Comments welcome – these are questions, not answers.
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