The Guevara Convention

Absolutely fantastic news – the Guevara Convention project (initial details were here) is now part reality – with two great tracks to listen to – so learn a little about brother Malcolm X and Harlem…
he was pointing the way…

and then a second track still more sublime…

Listen to both from the downloads area of the Guevara Convention site here or the very bottom of this page, or the side bar of [the old site of] Trinketization.

Bye Bye Howard, TweedleRudd takes his place – eeew/New Leadershrimp.

After 11 long reactionary years, Johnny bye bye Howard’s concessions speach in the Austraian ‘election’ just now on SkyNews included a tribute to the First Australians and his recent ‘intervention’ – given the blunt racism of that intervention, this was just one final kick in the knees. I am so glad to see him fuck right off. And I don’t carehow much the swing was, or if Benelong’s revenge is that he loses his seat or just withers away in office. Bye Bye Johnny Bye Bye.

Then I switch to ABC news and to the acceptance speech of the new Prime Minister. How long it takes Mr Rudd to remove the troops from Iraq will be the first test for his promise ‘to govern in the National interest’. Then some platitudes… doesn’t sound that promising does it: ‘A new consensus’ needs to be ‘forged’, a ’21st Centry economy’ and a ‘right balance’ between flexibility and fairness in the workplace’ [fair for some, flex the rest]. Oh dear – then there was some waffle about ‘fair go’, ‘national defence’ and ‘work for the nation’.

‘To our frineds and allies … [Rudd] will work with them to face the challenges of the future’ – what could that possibly mean? Especially followed by mention of our great friends in the USA straight after. Mate – ‘eeew’ Leadership or ‘new’ same old same old’.

Greens don’t seem to have done as well as they might have hoped, but Adam Bandt did alright in the impossible ask against Lindsay Tanner in Melbourne. Reason to be cheerful I do suppose – awwww. We will of course be admonished for not being happy happy happy. And that Maxine Medium in Benelong got all the publicity in the UK papers. While communist parties don’t seem to get any mention anywhere, of course. The resurgent Left is, um, not yet quite evident…

We’ve decided the Goverment in Exile Office must remain open for business.

Text message: what does Marx have to say about Jamie Oliver style school lunches?

At the beginning of chapter 16, more than half way through the first volume of Capital, Marx seems very often to be thinking of food. We have seen him worried about a coat, perhaps shivering in the reading room of the British Museum, but here he turns his attention to education and school dinners. Well, perhaps not school dinners, but dinners and schooling of the workers. For several chapters he is working out the ways capital seeks to extract greater surplus value through modifications of the skill base of the working class. Primarily this means education, training, discipline, but can also mean increasing productivity by means of the robust health – nutrition – of the workforce. An army marches on its stomach of course, and Marx by chapter 24 is quoting John Stuart Mill on wages as a necessary fund for consumption. Then there is an anonymous eighteenth century authority who complains that the workers consume too many luxuries – if only ‘our poor’ would live less luxuriously, consuming ‘brandy, gin, tea, sugar, foreign fruit, strong beer, printed linens, snuff, tobacco etc’ (An Essay on Trade and Commerce, 1770 p44-46, Marx 1867/1967:748). Not to deny the workers such pleasures out of sheer spite, the effort here, Marx notes, is to ‘force down English wages’. Some twenty years later, a certain Count Rumford (a ‘remarkable philosopher’ and ‘American humbug, the ennobled Yankee [also known as] Benjamin Thompson’) goes so far as to suggest cheaper substitutes for the expensive tastes of the workers and prepares a soup recipe which Marx details with the care of a post-Dickensian Jamie Oliver advising the Labour Party on school meals: ‘5 lb. of barley-meal, 7&1/2d.; 5 lb. of Indian corn, 6&1/4d.; 3d. worth of red herring,; 1d. salt 1d. vinegar, 2d. pepper and sweet herbs, in all 20&3/4d.; make a soup for 64 men, and at the median price of barley and of Indian corn … this soup may be provided at 1/4d. the portion of 20 ounces’ (Thompson quoted in Marx 1867/1967:749 – Marx then adds a footnote on Scottish workers who are ‘better’ educated than English workers and do not refuse to live. ‘very comfortably, for months together’ upon oat-meal mixed with water and salt – Eden quoted in Marx 1867/1967:749n).

Marx confirms that the adulteration of food in advanced capitalism has rendered such Rumfordian measures superfluous. We have already seen Marx reporting on bread mixed with flour, sawdust, vermin and the like, in the 1873 version of Capital now also records the innovations of capitalist medicine that were revealed as part of the inquiries relevant to the Parliamentary Commission Select Committee on the Adulteration of Food Act 1872, where ‘adulteration even of medicines is the rule, not the exception. For example, the examination of thirty-four specimens of opium, bought from the same number of different chemists in London, showed that thirty-one were adulterated with poppy-heads, wheat-flour, gum, clay, sand etc. Several specimens did not contain an atom of morphine’ (Marx 1867/1967:750n). It is no doubt some comfort to junkies in London today to know that the Afghan wars have increased poppy production and street heroin is at least not worse than that which was once sold legally on the high street.

Further comments then on workers being paid in part in bread – and other examples of ‘direct robbery from the worker’s necessary consumption fund’ (Marx 1867/1967:751).

Consumption of food by workers tends towards the most measly portions. Although the reproduction of labour-power is left ‘to the worker’s drives for self-preservation and propagation, this is continually under threat since all the capitalist cares for is to reduce the worker’s individual consumption to the necessary minimum’ (Marx 1867/1967:718). In the South African mines this can be a crude minimum of beans and bread, all the better for being substantial rather than less substantial (tastier) fare, since these workers must carry heavy loads of ore to the surface. ‘The consumption of food by a beast of burden does not become any less a necessary aspect of the production process because the beast enjoys what it eats’ (Marx 1867/1967:718). But to maintain itself, and to reproduce itself, the workers are only indirectly managed – though more and more by the nanny state of present times, so also in the Parliamentary Reports of Marx’s day – these are but ‘invisible threads’ (Marx 1867/1967:719) binding wage-labourers to their puppet-master owners.

Alongside the forcing down of wages to levels of French and Dutch workers (Engels adds that the lower remunerated Chinese workers had become the standard – third German edition Marx 1867/1967:749n), the innovations of science and technology which increase the pressure under which the workers work, the ‘main burden’ of the partial depreciation of fixed capital through competition and innovation ‘falls on the worker, in whose increased exploitation the capitalist seeks compensation for his loss’ (Marx 1867/1967:754). The consequence of civil war amongst competing capitals is ever more malnourished workers, even as these workers must be accustomed to greater skills, efficiencies, streamlinings and co-ordinations.

For the capitalist, this is a necessity in several ways – an initial drive for self-enrichment – avarice – then becomes ‘a business necessity’ as the ‘exhibition of wealth’ enters as luxury into capital’s ‘expenses of representation’. This attracts credit, since the capitalist must expand: ‘Moreover, the capitalist gets rich, not, like the miser, in proportion to his personal labour and restricted consumption, but at the same rate at which he squeezes out labour-power from others, and compels the worker to renounce all the enjoyments of life’. But while we can be sure that bastard money-bags is enjoying this luxury, it is somehow also a farce of contradiction, his enjoyment restrained by ‘sordid avarice and anxious calculating lurking in the background … a Faustian conflict’ (Marx 1867/1967:741). Of course there is no need to feel sympathy for this pact with the devil.


So back to chapter 16, Marx is thinking of food but also education. An insightful passage compares different ways of producing what is essential for the capitalist – the production not of commodities, but of surplus-value. Workers are employed by capital to produce surplus-value, not just to produce. And the capitalist does not care so much what work or what commodities are made, so long as surplus-value, and increasing amounts of it, is the consequence. Then this citation, which deserves to be entered on the statues of every university today:

‘a schoolmaster is a productive labourer when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his pupils, he works himself into the ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation’ (Marx 1867/1967:644).

Of course today a university and many schools are run by the state, and while a lecturer does not produce surplus value through lecturing, but rather adds value to the students future labour by way of increased productivity, university today is also a teaching factory insofar as degrees are sold for international income, training programs are delivered for industry free of charge, and a massive infrastructure – a knowledge industry – arises upon the very idea of education.

The value of labour-power is in part determined by the ‘cost of developing that power, which varies with the mode of production’ (Marx 1867/1967:654). The economies of labour-time earnt by increased productivity are of course soon adopted by other capitals and become standard – the value of labour power varies in cost – ‘an increase in the productivity of labour causes a fall in the value of labour-power and a consequent rise in surplus-value’ (Marx 1867/1967:657) – even as factors such as training, instruction, even education become more important and increase the cost of labour-power – though of course also vary across different processes of production. The university today can be said to produce differentially trained levels of workers – alpha knowledge workers, beta service workers, Delta drones (see Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or the film Gattica).

So there is organisation, maintenance, training and reproduction (sex, childrearing, housework, community) of the workforce as crucial factors that modify rates of surplus-value extraction. It should be no surprise then that the capitalists as a class – the State – take a direct interest in such matters: labour regulation, national health, education and training, family. In addition, as we shall see later, migration and unemployment are concerns that become greatly important to capital at different times.

Yet also continually:

‘The reproduction of the working class implies at the same time the transmission and accumulation of skills from one generation to another. The capitalist regards the existence of such a skilled working class as one of the conditions of production which belong to him (Marx 1867/1967:719-720).

The next part of the discussion should be about discipline of the workforce,
Invention – p 677. Especially innovation as a tool for suppression of the workers, and R&D, City Planning, Science parks, maybe even Graduate Schools etc…

{Picture is a Deutsche Telecom ad from 1997}

Free Stuff


Three free tracks from Fun Da Mental – as always uncompromising, provocative and sincere.

1.Happy to Be Clappy- exposing the deceit of the collaborators in current times and the consequences.

2. Darfur to Disneyland – Riyadh to Washington and all those in between.

3.Guilt of the Innocence – Only FDM will deal with the issue of suicide bombing – we are all victims except the guilty ones.

See you in Belmarsh

fun da mental

feel free to forward to all including the intelligence services

Terrorvisionaries (part two)

A talk at Nottingham University Politics department last night gave me a chance to elaborate my worries over new media anthropology in South Asia, pantomime terror and the hanging channel – following on from the talks I’ve given about the Mohammed Afzal case and the DIY Cookbook video from Fund^da^mental. The notes below presume you have read the earlier posts which are linked at the relevant points (sorry, a bit clumsy and it presumes a lot eh – still, these are notes to myself really – just a little more public than usual – but then all our data seems to be very very public these days, thanks to the chancellor and the lost personal details from the Child Support Agency – ha).

Televisonaries (part one) here should be read first, then come back here to read this post, but half way through slot in the DIY Cokbook and Bus posts as indicated after about four paragraphs…

‘Terrorvisionaries (part two)’:

The second example of cross platform public media storytelling is a diasporic one that involves my British-Pakistani mate Aki Nawaz. I have detailed the Aki story elsewhere, so merely refer you again to the links here.

In “Echographies of Television” (Derrida and Steigler) Derrida notes that televisual recording both captures immediacy more and can be more readily edited and manipulated, such that there will need to be a change in the legal axiomatics of the courts (p97 and 93). There is much that Derrida has to say of interest on television, the archive and justice, but sometimes Gayatri Spivak is much better on Derridean themes than Derrida himself. She apparently was working on the text of the Mahabharata – let us hope she will take it up again, and perhaps share views on elder brother Karna. Though he is not exactly subaltern, his position on the side of the Kauravas is at least interesting and the archival exclusion is operative, gridded over by a counter-female patriarchy and, as national and global reworkings of the narratives insert stories onto developmental teleology, neoliberal hype as well. The archive in Spivak is difficult, requires more effort than we usually can manage (‘more’ – persistent, language learning, privilege-unlearning, patient, painstaking scholarship) but her work on terror, suicide bombings and planetary justice is inspirational.

On the telematic, Spivak is more epistemological than Derrida – for her media would be something like knowledge, reason, responsibility, and so something to be conjured with, interrupted in a persistent effort of the teacher through critique to rearrange ordained and pre-coded desires. Not just to fill up on knowledge but to further transnational literacy and an ethics of the other. On terror: the ethical interrupts the epistemological. There is a point at which the construction of the other as object of knowledge must be challenged: ‘the ethical interrupts [law, reason] imperfectly, to listen to the other as if it were a self’ (Spivak 2004:83 “Boundary 2”, summer 80-111).

The task suggested here that seems most difficult to get our heads around is to accept complicity in a way that makes possible an identification, ‘alive to visible injustice’ (Spivak 2004:89) as well as ‘not to endorse suicide bombing but to be on the way to its end’ (Spivak 2004:93). Is there a message we can hear without an automatic move towards punishment or acquittal? Here the ethical and archival task of knowledge is to learn to learn what is in the mind, and what is the desire (or motivation?) of the suicide bomber. DIY Cookbook does something like this in a different way.

7/7 – buses, camera phones – Aki in the Guardian, backpacks, Charles De Menezes, DIY Video. As already riffed in the earlier posts on the Buses and on DIY Cookbook, here and here

Then return to the current post to continue:

The point is that here again an anthropology of media can be said to have made important moves to acknowledge cross platform significance in the media – saturated India – but also we might note that the acknowledgement that music tracks are a crucial make or break component of Bollywood film marketing only barely begins to get at the range of issues to be discussed in this field today.

The war on terror has achieved something that was previously only hinted at, partial, or only aspirational with regard to the place of South Asia in the world. Blown forcefully into the frontal lobe attention of all political actors, the obscurity of the previous Afghan wars, the regional nuclear detente, the peasant insurgencies or rural and hill tribals, these are no longer ignored. Front and centre, Islam on display, Pakistan a strategic player, India on alert. What multiculturalism and Bollywood could do only in a marginal and somewhat exotic way is exploded by a new visibility. But this is not just a media scare. Visibility maters where something is done with it – it is the first opportunity for a politics of redress that would build upon this (global) attention.

Call centres, news media, satellite, language, popular culture, tourism, humour, obscenity, gender, sex, digitization (of tradition), software and diaspora (India 2.0) all this suggests that media studies in this area are taking a broader scope and have advanced beyond the ‘coming of age’ stories that greeted Ramayana and Mahabharata, live cricket, and Bollywood on cable. This is to be welcomed.

Yet all is not rosy in storytelling land.

For all the publicity Sarai has garnered, it remains a small operation run out of CSDS. What it stands for however is more important – a still somewhat neglected area of academic and creative interest, deeply marked by a version of a technological cringe – the idea that new media is somehow new to India – and that the old politics are not also played out in the new news formats.

The exotic story of the new media arrival is the same orthodox binary obscurantism that ensures that stories of India abroad are either about rustic romance and tradition, morality, and colourful clothing, or else they are the dark side of communal violence, suicide bombing and disaster – the mismanaged nation post departure of the British, or blamed on Islam/Pakistan/Moguls/or Maoists. More nuanced positions are lost in favour of ‘the invisible or the hypervisible (stereotype)’ (Gopinath 2005:42). The ideological message here is that an India untainted by the ravages of imperial plunder might be preferred, and the NDTV ideal would have the Mahatma reading the news, but unfortunately the crisis is upon us, and in a flap chaos prevails. Anthropologists join the military effort (New York Times October 2007).

If we were to understand this material not only in juridical terms, or as requiring a transformation of the protocols of legal evidence and admissibility (no doubt this is necessary, as Derrida says), but also recognising that comprehension of media storytelling perhaps requires an appreciation of a wider sweep of mythological knowledge or epistemological reference (as Spivak might suggest), then to read the stories of Aki Nawaz as pantomime, or Mohammed Afzal as melodrama is somehow also warranted. This is not to disavow or diminish the urgent politics around the immediacy of these events – to challenge the demonization of Muslims in Britain, to oppose the death penalty and torture, to defend an individual from trial by media. But it is also to recognise something that shifts at a more general media level, where journalism gives way to SMS poll popularity, court procedures mimic docu-drama, tabloid sensations become the tactics of security services and similar.

To develop this is to recognise how patterns of melodrama and performance are played out in the way these events come to our attention. The pantomime season at Christmas is now matched with a sinister twin in July that commemorates the bus bombings with an equally ideological storytelling round – teaching kids fear and hate just as much as Christmas teaches them commoditization. The idea that pantomime is educational, rather than Orientalist – Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin – is just as much training in stereotype and profiling as are the melodramatic terror alerts each July (and September). These are constructed ‘panics’, each no doubt grounded in real evidence, solid intelligence, and careful analysis by Special Branch and MI5 – as Charles de Menezes and Mohammed Afzal both surely can attest. Aki Nawaz as ‘suicide rapper’ might almost be funny if it were not symptomatic of a wider malaise and complicity in our media reportage – a failure to examine critically and contextually what is offered up to us as unmediated ‘news’. What did it say on the side of the bus if not ‘Total Film’?

One way perhaps to disrupt the walled enclave or ‘green zone’ that is civil society, polite discussion and public commons also known as the privileged space of television news might be to hark back to older storytelling forms.

Its 30 years since Edward Said delivered Orientalism and though I might have some quibbles with what has happened in the wake of that text (too many historical studies, not enough now) I do believe it alerts us to something important and not yet nearly resolved. I can’t help but think looking to old texts might help us rethink new ones – hence the Mahabharata and the Arabian Nights as away to refocus television…

The Mahabharata rehearses a fratricidal drama that tears everyone apart. Pakistan and India are not referenced there, but the tale of brothers split and fighting is a well worn trope, such that I think its time to move to other stories as a break. For me, its not so easy, inducted into the Arabian nights as a child, I feel betrayed because…

Instead, I imagine Roshan Sethi as a new kind of despotic Shahjah, entertaining Scheherezade only by email or SMS – because she was caught, detained and then by ‘special rendition’ she was interred in Guantanamo Bay, she texts out intermittently to Roshan. Forlorn drunken fool, her anguished reports reveal her having been interrogated all day yet again to the Gitmo Military Intelligence. This version of the 1001 nights is particularly obscene, but because Omar’s father is drunk in bed, watching Bollywood reruns, or Stephen Frears’ later fluff, the story just cannot get out. This is politics, its good to think something might more might be done today.

The character played by Roshan Seth might rant against the kind of journalism that enables this new cretinized media propaganda, but more than sozzled rants are required.

[image is the Nation logo – it should be spinning but blogger can’t cope]

Comrade Gaurav Speaks At Goldsmiths College In London


“Professor John Hutnyk of the Goldsmiths College Centre for Culture Studies gave a brief introduction.

Comrade Gaurav (C.P. Gajurel), who is in charge of the International Bureau of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)-CPN (M)-made an important speech at Goldsmiths College in London on Thursday 15/11/07. Comrade Gaurav made a series of important and inspiring points. His speech was well-received by an audience of students and British sympathisers with the revolution in Nepal.

Comrade Gaurav urged a united struggle by the CPN (M) and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) against the Congress-led Interim government.

However, Comrade Gaurav stated that the CPN (M) did not want to take power at this current time. He argued that in the present situation, the party could do little to benefit the people, if it was part of the government. However, he was confident of the CPN (M) achieving power at the appropriate time.

Comrade Gaurav explained that Nepal Congress was in a serious dilemma at the moment. This is because of the fact that they have lost a recent vote in the Interim Parliament on the issue of the establishment of a republic and a fully proportional voting system. If Congress sticks to its position, it will be going against the will of the people. If it changes its position, this will be seen as a significant reversal of its policy.

It was made clear by Comrade Gaurav that the CPN (M) only sees the parliamentary struggle as one front in its fight for revolution. As Marxists, they do not believe that power can be achieved by parliamentary means alone. The decision to engage in parliamentary struggle arose from the need to win over the urban masses. Critics who ask why the CPN (M) did not continue the People’s War in 2006 fail to acknowledge this need. Despite its power in the countryside, the CPN (M) was not politically strong enough to lead an urban revolt in 2006 to complete the revolution.

Comrade Gaurav spoke of the dangers of foreign intervention led by US imperialism to prevent the success of the revolution in Nepal. Comrade Gaurav pointed out that Nepal was perfectly able to withstand an economic blockade by means of economic self-reliance and through the determined spirit of the people. Comrade Gaurav also pointed out that the disruption to the regional balance of power caused by intervention in Nepal would not be tolerated by interested parties among the Asian nations.

Finally, Comrade Gaurav stressed that the CPN (M) was making its revolution for all the people of the world. The main enemy of the people of Nepal is U.S. imperialism, he stated. Comrade Gaurav hoped that the example of the CPN (M) would inspire people around the world in the struggle against imperialism.

The meeting was hosted by Goldsmiths College Centre for Culture Studies, Nepali Samaj and the World People’s Resistance Movement”