Bushranger Bay

Still reading Gayatri Spivak’s new book, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. Its difficult, but actually great. I think her argument is somehow (anyhow) to keep working at the patient effortful non-coercive project of education for epistemic change and rearrangement of individual desire (careerism) towards a collective responsibility (planetary perspective), where the wealth of productive capacity would be (re)distributed through real democratic choice founded on aesthetic education (skills of reading, habits of empathy, not jumping to judgement) and critical comportment towards others and for the comfort and care of all (!). Yup, I’ve a ways to go yet.


CPI(M): “Condemn the arrests and torture of Maoist activists in Kolkata and Mumbai!”

From Communist Party of India (Maoist) via A World to Win:


12 March 2012. A World to Win News Service. India has been on a fast track to playing a more major role in the global economy. Indian and international corporations are itching to tear up the land inhabited by tribal peoples to get their hands on the riches that lie under them, minerals like bauxite, coal and iron ore.  The Indian government cannot tolerate the fact that large swaths of the country are not under their control, and are determined to crush any resistance that stands in their way, especially the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the masses hungry for radical change who make up the army they lead. In late 2009, with an array of military forces and the utmost cruelty, the Indian government unleashed a war on the people called Operation Green Hunt. Following is a press release dated 2 March, 2012 from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), signed by its spokesman, Abhay.

 In the last week of February 2012, the police have arrested activists of our Party, including some senior cadres from Kolkata and Mumbai. On the specific intelligence inputs provided by the murderous Andra Pradesh Special Intelligence Bureau (APSIB), joint forces of police and Special Task Force (STF) of Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal have raided the shelters of our comrades in Kolkata and Mumbai suburbs and arrested at least nine comrades, including two women comrades. Comrades Sadanala Ramakrishna, Deepak Kumar Pargania, Sukumar Mandal, Bapi Mudi and Sambhu Charan were arrested from Kolkata, while Comrades Dinesh Wankhede, Aasimkumar Bhattacharya, Suman Gawde and Paru Patel were picked up from Thane in Maharashtra.

 Comrades Sadanala Ramakrishna alias Santosh (62) and Aasimkumar Bhattacharya (65) were the seniors among the arrested. Senior comrade Sadanala Ramakrishna has been working for the revolution for at least four decades. He has been ailing with serious health problems for so many years. A mechanical engineer graduated from the prestigious Regional Engineering College (REC) of Warangal where other martyred leaders like Surapaneni Janardhan and Azad emerged as great revolutionaries of their times, Comrade Ramakrishna sacrificed his bright life for the cause of the liberation of the downtrodden.

 Both the two women comrades arrested – Vijaya and Suman – have been undergoing medical treatment for some time, staying in the shelters outside the struggle zones. Particularly, comrade Vijaya has been suffering from serious heart problems.

 The police forces, known for worst kind of cruelty, have been torturing these comrades mentally and physically while in custody. They have foisted several false cases against these comrades so that they could be languished behind bars forever.

 On one hand the ruling classes are asserting that these arrests are a big success for them, and on the other hand, they are trying to portray our comrades as dangerous criminals, claiming that they have recovered huge amounts of cash and other material that is used for making arms.

 These arrests are nothing but a part of Operation Green Hunt (OGH), i.e. the “War on People” which has been underway since 2009. The comprador ruling classes, in connivance with their imperialist masters, particularly with the US imperialists, have unleashed this brutal war of suppression in the poorest parts of India so that their neo-liberal policies of plunder of resources could go unhindered. They are particularly targeting the revolutionary leadership and eliminating them. As the Pentagon itself claimed recently, the US Special Forces are not only actively involved, but also assisting their Indian counterparts on the ground in the counter-insurgency operations aimed at eliminating the revolutionary leadership. This fact also shows us that the US has been patronizing in the ongoing Operation Green Hunt, making the values such as the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of our country a joke. The exploiting rulers of our country are daydreaming that this movement can be suppressed if its leadership is wiped out.

 The revolutionary movement cannot be crushed with arrests and murders. The bars of the dungeons cannot restrict the revolutionary ideas from spreading among the vast masses.

 The CC of CPI (Maoist) strongly condemns these arrests and the inhuman torture being inflicted on them. We demand immediate and unconditional release of these comrades, as well as all of the political prisoners languishing in various jails in all corners of our land. We also demand the lifting of all the false cases foisted against these comrades.

            -end item-

‘the best hated and most calumniated man of his time’

Engels speaking at Marx’s burial (Marx died on this day in 1883, the burial was 3 days later):

On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep — but for ever.

An immeasurable loss has been sustained both by the militant proletariat of Europe and America, and by historical science, in the death of this man. The gap that has been left by the departure of this mighty spirit will soon enough make itself felt.

Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.

But that is not all. Marx also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created. The discovery of surplus value suddenly threw light on the problem, in trying to solve which all previous investigations, of both bourgeois economists and socialist critics, had been groping in the dark.

Two such discoveries would be enough for one lifetime. Happy the man to whom it is granted to make even one such discovery. But in every single field which Marx investigated — and he investigated very many fields, none of them superficially — in every field, even in that of mathematics, he made independent discoveries.

Such was the man of science. But this was not even half the man. Science was for Marx a historically dynamic, revolutionary force. However great the joy with which he welcomed a new discovery in some theoretical science whose practical application perhaps it was as yet quite impossible to envisage, he experienced quite another kind of joy when the discovery involved immediate revolutionary changes in industry, and in historical development in general. For example, he followed closely the development of the discoveries made in the field of electricity and recently those of Marcel Deprez.

For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival. His work on the first Rheinische Zeitung (1842), the Paris Vorwarts (1844), the Deutsche Brusseler Zeitung (1847), the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (1848-49), the New York Tribune (1852-61), and, in addition to these, a host of militant pamphlets, work in organisations in Paris, Brussels and London, and finally, crowning all, the formation of the great International Working Men’s Association — this was indeed an achievement of which its founder might well have been proud even if he had done nothing else.

And, consequently, Marx was the best hated and most calumniated man of his time. Governments, both absolutist and republican, deported him from their territories. Bourgeois, whether conservative or ultra-democratic, vied with one another in heaping slanders upon him. All this he brushed aside as though it were a cobweb, ignoring it, answering only when extreme necessity compelled him. And he died beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow workers — from the mines of Siberia to California, in all parts of Europe and America — and I make bold to say that, though he may have had many opponents, he had hardly one personal enemy.

His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work.

[the picture is from the ‘Marx trot‘ tour of old beardo’s houses and the pubs he drank in – which included a brief stop outside the now cocktail bar where once the Manifesto was adopted by the League. Another Marx trot is planned for the summer, stay tuned]

Policy Documents

Exasperated by the proliferation of strategy documents and committee creep(s) here at college, I bothered to comment on one that hit my desktop today… here it is, just for the record (well, here is my comment, I presume the strategy itself is still only a draft, so i can’t post it):

Preamble. Learning and teaching! there is a huge disjunct between the preamble and the second and third parts. It is as if these were written by two different committees. The first part is from the corporate sector, the second a Goldsmiths person.

On the first part: At an institution like ours we have to link the distinctive research Goldsmiths’ academics do clearly with our teaching. This linkage should be a core value – we are different, we do things differently. That is why we are not SOAS or LSE/UCL etc, but it is also why we can compete with them – and its why we are the destination of choice for cultural studies – and for media, sociology, arts etc – because we do it differently and radically. Where is that in the statement? I would not exactly start with the so-called ‘values’ phrase ‘Radical and innov­at­ive thinking’ but I would search for a way to foreground this, and link this explicitly to teaching.
The place to really be sharp I think is in relation to the government imperative to get more bang for NO bucks – ‘Higher rates of annual participation accompanied by changing funding environments have placed new imperatives on the importance of demonstrating value for money — both in teaching and research’ – this sentence only mildly and implicitly questions the outrageous fraud of defunding higher education and turning it into a free gift of training for industry. The national education policy should be even more roundly criticised by a place like Goldsmiths and this must be a core value of our teaching, as it is in research. In an environment like this, it behoves us to speak out explicitly against these imperatives, not concede to them and restate them.
OK, I know that a T&L strategy is not going to be able to explicitly step up to this, but an angular take on ‘value for money’ might be more proactive about producing critical thinking, capable, ethically alert, educated students. Not just fodder for the sausage factory. Conceding the ground to a discussion of employability is faulty.
Two parts of the preamble also mention research. It might be good to get in some comment about responsible and critical research here too. The collaborative research might be read as working with industry, this must be tempered with responsibility, and it is something that deserves to be said much more often here. To simply give a free reign to any collaboration goes the way of corporate tie-ins, or worse.

“build on our record of world-leading and high impact research;
increase collaborative research, knowledge exchange and consultancy”

I find the second clause troubling if it does not come with a health warning vis a vis corporate opportunism. This also matters for teaching in a fundamental way. In the sciences companies like Riotinto have used ‘collaborative research’ and consultancy as a way in to having a say on curriculum, for example.
Then we get to the meat section. This part is wholly different. Supportive statements and sensible, encouraging concerns for the student experience and so on. Here I have much less trouble with the wording – though sometimes things like ‘enterprise’ slip in (is this the starship enterprise, or something else?).
Focussing our aims
SA4 – employability speak starts to creep in a little, but it is largely OK. What is Synapse (link?) Who gets these gold Awards? [It may be that communication is really a missing link in all Goldsmiths does]
SA5 – global open access. This is great. For example, providing subsidised access to our electronic library holdings for students trapped in Gaza would be a way forward. I have tried n the past to get this on the SMT agenda. Maybe it is something GLUE could take up.
What is missing?
What I think is crucial for a L&T strategy is not at all a centralised resource. What is missing is an up-front commitment to deploy resource to departments. This no doubt is a common complaint from academics, but it is now beyond absurd that centralised administrative fiefdoms are in the business of mass dissemination of strategy documents that, if some meta-cognitive criticism might be warranted, seem only to allocate more and more work to departments, and more and more ‘meta-document writing’ to the self-perpetuating central admin sections. Among the things I can think of immediately that might be an alternative to all this would be that we need more resource within departments to teach PhD students – the calculation of staff time is insufficient for these students who require intensive attention. I mean, that is, if we are to teach them, say, to write. I think in the University we do a good job still of teaching to listen, teaching to repeat arguments, even to discuss and critique, but teaching to write takes time and one to one development of writing as an exchange between supervisor and student, as well as adequate time between supervisor and groups of students – say a writing seminar or the development of academic publications. I think we have had enough of the massive centralised effort to produce a glossy award-winning but alienated college-wide prospectus and centralised webpages always tightly controlled by design protocol. We should instead release funds to departments to free up staff time for increased writing supervisor-student sessions and for in-house scholarly publications which might also carry the prospectus, making the whole thing more attractive, critical and intellectually challenging.
OK, so, I’ll stop, I know this is probably just typing in the wind. I won’t even correct the typos. Just needed to say this after a day of meetings that were fairly underwhelming.