Exploring the achievements of resistance and discussing shifts in US foreign policy
6pm, Thursday July 9th Conway Hall 25 Red Lion Sq, London
Speakers: HIZBULLAH REPRESENTATIVE (video link from Lebanon); HAIFA ZANGANA (on Iraq); DR AZZAM TAMIMI (on Palestine); NADINE ROSA-ROSSO (from recogniseresistance.net, on the role of the anti-imperialist movements in the West); DYAB ABOU JAHJAH (IUPFP International Director, video link from Lebanon); JOHN REES (from Stop the War, on the role of the anti-war movement);
Chair: Sukant Chandan (Chairman of the British section of the IUPFP)
Following from Obama’s historic speech in Cairo on June 5th, this meeting will discuss the following issues: * How has the Palestinian, Iraqi and Lebanese resistance impacted on US plans for world hegemony? * Is the US in strategic retreat? * What does the Obama phenomenon mean for the peoples of the South?
Organised by the British section of the International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine http://iupfp.org/
Crisis Theory: From Capitalism and Back Again.
On examination of the current distribution of forces and potentials, it is clear that capitalism will not and cannot change. In the present ‘crisis’, there is little chance of it becoming a “more human” version of itself. It remains ‘the same’ – exploitation and class inequality are its fundamentals, and these ‘fundamentals’ remain sound.
But, keen observers of political struggles might ask, might not the left somehow profit from the crisis? Historically, from a radical wing perspective it has been in times of crisis that revolutionary change seemed possible. The first world war was, of course in complicated ways, the catalyst for the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The second world war precipitated revolutionary success in China, and – although Nehruvian socialism did not have such a significant leftist character – independence for India. Note also, through the 1950s and 1960s, a cascading series of anti-colonial victories in Africa and Asia were achieved, in a century of revolutions, precisely on the back of the weakening of the colonial powers.
It would not do, however, to present an ambulance-chasing theory of political change. It is not only after crises that the Left can come to power, but there are no guarantees that the collapse in the fortunes of certain banks, real estate and car manufacturers means we can anticipate a more ‘humane’ less exploitative capitalism. As Marx showed (if one reads as far as volume three of Das Kapital) there are always profiteers ready to take the place of those who fail in deals that go awry: opportunism is an analytical variable that cannot be denied. This is true even if the present political predicament may or may not be usefully compared to the depression™ which more or less paved the way for fascism (in my view a limited rendering of the equation, often held by left groups, but misguided since the hostility of the European bourgeoisie to the first wave of communist uprisings – Germany, Hungary – also played its part in the rise of Hitler et al). Today, however, the conditions are patently not as ripe for a significant fascist upsurge, notwithstanding gains across Europe for the likes of the BNP or the misnamed Danish People’s Party. No, the factor of significance today is the absence of organised progressive groups able to take advantage of the conjunctural moment. There is an astonishing openness to change alive in the media and the public – nicer capitalism is on the cards, climate change aware, fair trade, less corrupt bankers and ministers… but where is the militancy that would push this sentiment forward past a mere business-as-usual capitalist restoration (capitalism with pretty window decorations)? The militant left presently seems particularly unable to organise its way out of the proverbial paper sack; the parliamentary experiment is constrained so much by tabloid and opinion poll politics that it dare not risk an idea; and the anarchist-cum-environmentalist left are torn between a corporate lobbying and an alternate lifestyle model that on both sides seems unable to forget what the 1970s did to sixties idealism.
The crisis as opportunity to change everything will therefore be a misfire. There are, of course, discussions in the highbrow press, of ethical constraint, new democracy, hope, and ‘yes we can’. This however is branding. Worse, it is the triumph of B-team bourgeois reserve politics. The brutality of armaments, automobiles and mining as the core profit stream of capital will be supplemented in the interregnum by new media, culture and service. Neither mode of production is incompatible with wage slavery. Where is the seize-the-time crew today if not already compromised with business plans and flow-chart projections? Without a Leninist organization ready to bludgeon through the idea that real change – radical root and branch uprooting of the four alls – all class relations that are the bedrock of exploitation, all relations of production that enable the owners of capital to profit from those who do the work, all social relations that rise upon these relations of production and all the ideas that justify them – without all this, there is no crisis; only a “crisis”. Stage managed and good for news entertainment. Watch carefully, CNN is going to make a documentary, with a slick, well-groomed presenter. Business-as-usual (hence the pic). Red Salute.
Here is the first of ‘Eleven theses on art and politics’ for my talk in Copenhagen on thursday (‘Forms of engagement, Configurations of politics’ conference):
1. Do Bees have art?
“what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax.” – Marx, Capital I, p284
In Marx’s passage about the bees and the architects, clearly it is the bees who do not have representation, despite their excellent construction skills. The (human) architect constructs a structure in the mind (or on paper) before building it in the world. We can call this art. If we are to take Marx’s analogy seriously, bees do not have art, they have sting and a love of nectar, but no art.
But if art is different to politics, do bees have politics? Is the art of politics one of opportunity and struggle in the real? Or is strategy and tactics the equivalent of art in the human? Debord’s interest in strategy, as well as that long tradition within communism, will be relevant here. It may be that bees, with their hierarchy in the hive, but also their expansive quest to pollinate, have in fact a politics that can teach us.
But perhaps the bees have been caught up and caged. In England, we are told that bees are under threat and our entire biosphere is in danger if bees cease to do the endless work of pollinating flowers – which connects up nature to culture to economy in ways only hinted at by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Meanwhile, in the advanced sectors of capital:
Nicole Pepperel writes: I have to admit, I’ve never particularly thought about the industrial organisation of crop pollination, until I read this column from the New York Times discussing possible responses to Colony Collapse Disorder – the mysterious plague that causes adult bees to desert their hives, leaving honey and larvae behind. I found this image particularly striking:
“…it is important to add that, here in the United States, the majority of our crops are pollinated not by wild bees, or even by honeybees like mine, which live in one location throughout the year, but by a vast mobile fleet of honeybees-for-rent”.
“From the almond trees of California to the blueberry bushes of Maine, hundreds of thousands of domestic honeybee hives travel the interstate highways on tractor-trailers. The trucks pull into a field or orchard just in time for the bloom; the hives are unloaded; and the bees are released. Then, when the work of pollination is done, the bees are loaded up, and the trucks pull out, heading for the next crop due to bloom”.
(Originally posted by N Pepperell 29/01/2009 http://www.roughtheory.org/content/worker-bees/)
Clearly there is a politics of bees, and it is of more importance than we often concede. So, as Adorno says…