Lumpenization

If we are all in this together,* these filthy UK posters need to be fucked up.

Fuckedupposters

Not only because we can read in Chapter 25 of Capital, Marx’s long disquisition on the industrial reserve army (LW628 section three of chapter 25). Much of this chapter is also on wages (and therefor probably also moved from the once promised book on wages) and put here so as to emphasise the trick of accumulated capital – it is unpaid labour power of a collective kind. – the ‘prekarer’ precarious workers (P793 D669 LW640) the floating, latent and stagnant reserve army that keeps everyone ducking and diving to stay in work, and keeps wages down, are here and Marx actually calls for workers and unemployed to organise:

‘as soon as labourers learn the secret, how it comes to pass that in the same measure as they work more, as they produce more wealth for others, and as the productive power of their labour increases, so in the same measure even their function as a means of the self expansion of capital becomes more and more precarious for them; as soon as they discover that the degree and intensity of competition amongst themselves depends wholly on the pressure of the relative surplus-population; as soon as, by trades’ Union and c., that they try to organize a regular co-operation between employed and unemployed in order to destroy or to weaken the ruinous effects of this natural law of capitalist production on their class, so soon capital and its sycophant Political Economy cry out at the infringement of the “eternal” and “sacred” law of supply and demand. Every combination of employed and unemployed disturbs the “harmonious” action of this law. But, on the other hand, as soon as (in the colonies, e.g.) adverse circumstances prevent the creation of an industrial reserve army and, with it, the absolute dependence of the working class upon the capitalist class, capital [and the parsimonious Sancho Panza] … tries to check its inconvenient action by forcible means and State interference’ (LW640 P793).

* of course we are not all in this together – that piece of Government bile just emphasises the need to single out surround and, erm, re-educate a certain layer of abuser – the fat cat piggy pollie.

BCI – business university links

Possibly of interest apropos discussions about internships and corporate involvement with Universities, this BCI report was just released. I won’t say much about the content, but there are interesting bits on the employer spokesperson’s view of internships and students working with Rolls Royce etc. I will however note in passing the beginning and end images of stylised ‘talk bubbles’. The BCI is the ‘voice of business’, but by the time the conversation bubble – talk metaphor – gets to section five of the report the détente is silenced and the WAR metaphor takes over. And at the end, the CEO from Glaxo Smith Kline – Andrew Witty – considers the university an integral part of his ‘supply chain’. No response from the other side of the conversation – the final talk bubble is empty, left speechless in the face of a militant enthusiasm. Rhetorical friendly fire shooting off its mouth again.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 18.31.28 Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 18.34.53the report is available here if you must.

Quid pro Quo – Subversive Festival, Zagreb (2nd vid)

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My third talk in a series of three on capital was at the Subversive Festival in Zagreb. The second talk is here (Translating Capital in Context) and it makes sense to see the second talk first [the first one in Rijeka was not recorded, but was based on my text on Citizen Kane], not least because it will help explain why the conceit in this third talk has Marx relocated to India, which of course he was always deeply interested in, but he never went, only picking up bits of info, and some myths – eg the horror stories of Jagannath etc – from his wide-ranging and varied reading. I think it is justified to deploy Marx to Calcutta, at least in fantasy, though its true not even Engels took his father’s advice to go to Calcutta to start in business. The old boys were European bound, but this did not mean they did not seek out the revolution elsewhere.

What also should be mentioned (the parts here are – great job – edited and slightly reordered, and the opening by Bernard missed) is that in this talk I set out to look at three different moments. 1) the arrival of Clive in Calcutta after the ‘sham scandal’ of the Black Hole in 1756; 2) the first all-India war of Independence, the so-called ‘mutiny’ 100 years later and; 3) the quid pro quo return of originary capital to the site of the East India Company shipyard in London in present times, under the aegis of the Farrell’s development of Convoys’ Wharf, Deptford, for Hutchinson Whampoa.

I am slowly writing this out as a long, too long, chapter, so this version is pretty schematic, but you will get the drift of new work. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks also to the crew at Subversive, especially Karolina Hrga, and Bernard Koludrović who was chair.

Abstract:

“Marx writing on India is key to understanding Capital. My argument is that we can make sense of Marx today by examining his theoretical and journalistic work together, each informed by an emergent anthropology, by historical hermeneutics, by a critique of political economy and by attention to a global political contest that mattered more than philosophy. Marx reading history, already against the grain and without being able to make actual alliances, is nevertheless seeking allies in a revolutionary cause. Is it possible to observe Marx coming round to realise, after the shaping experience of the 1848-1852 European uprisings, the possibilities for the many different workers of the world to unite? I consider the sources Marx finds available, what he reads, and how his writing practice parses critical support as habitual politics, and how far subcontinental events, themes and allegories are a presence in the key moves of his masterwork Capital almost as if India were a refocused bromide for Europe, just as slavery is for wages. I will take up four cases – the ‘founding’ of Calcutta by Job Charnock (disputed); the story of Clive sacking Chandernagore and going on to defeat Suraj-ud-duala at Palashi/Plassey in 1757 in retaliation for the ‘Black Hole’ (did it exist?); Disraeli verbosely saying nothing about the so-called Indian ‘mutiny’ 1857 (‘the East as a career’); and the question of legalizing Opium in China and the advent of Matheson-Jardine Company after the East India Company comes to an end (‘quid pro quo’). All of this brings us back to the realities of global investment and regeneration in Europe today, as international capital returns to the port of London to redevelop the old East India Company shipyards in Deptford.”

15/5/2014, 21h, Cinema Europa, Zagreb, Croatia
John Hutnyk: Quid pro quo: the East as a career
7th Subversive festival: “Power and Freedom in the Time of Control”
Moderator: Bernard Koludrović

A Pay Rise is Not Enough – We Need a Plan C

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Provoked by Parliament’s steadfast commitment to a Plan A of Austerity, the rusty machinery of the Trades Union Congress has provided the customary opposition in the form of its Plan B: marching for the alternative, marching for jobs, growth and justice, and now marching for a pay rise. We think it’s important that we join our fellow workers on 18 October, but we do so critical of the TUC, its politics and its innocuous demand. In short, we need a Plan C.
The march on 18 October will be the biggest national mobilisation of the working class in two years. This is something the TUC is relatively good at – which is reasonable to expect given its immense budget. However, this is also an organisation which has joined forces with the Confederation of Business and Industry (CBI) in backing workfare programmes, and which increasingly appears interested in only engaging with – let alone fighting for – only a narrow subset of workers. Within the formal work economy, employment is increasingly casualised, while ‘informal’ work such as care – which is equally crucial to the generation of profit – remains as marginalised as ever within the TUC’s chauvinistic and rigid workerism.

The demand for a pay rise seems to be more closely tied to legitimising Labour’s new policy for an £8 minimum wage than creating a movement to challenge and transform the present reality of working class existence in Britain. Labour’s plan for a pay rise – 26p per hour on top of the existing minimum wage by 2020 – is an insult. It’s a grand plan to remunerate the increasingly impoverished and growing working poor with less than the price of a bag of crisps. The TUC’s support for such a policy is an embarrassment.

Throughout the week of the 13 October, we will be joining the national strikes and picket lines in the run up to the demonstration. One-day stop work actions obviously have their limitations, but any hope we have of strike action becoming more general and widespread means we must engage, participate and make connections. We have launched #strikeup to collect reflections, dreams and counter-narratives of what work and striking could look like in the future, and we encourage others to strike up similar conversations on their local picket lines. We will then join the march on 18 October, standing with our fellow workers while strongly critical of the TUC’s complicity.

A pay rise is not enough. We demand the ability to live without overwhelming insecurity. We demand to work with flexibility and on our own terms. We demand an end to the double burden of unremunerated care work. We demand an end to sexism and racism in the workplace. We demand a movement that does not limit itself to pay rises but one which dreams of a world beyond work. We demand a Plan C.

Danish colonial ties

Danskemaritime

Some maritime gems in the library yesterday… ”Serampore had a certain importance to the illicit Anglo-Danish trade thanks to its facilities for anonymity and customs easements’ (Feldbaek 1969:199). Indeed, Feldbaek suggests that because of English East India Company restrictions, some 80-90% of goods sent from Bengal to Copenhagen were not consumed in Copenhagen, but moved along in various ways to London as the goods were shipped by English and Anglo-Indian traders working under Danish flags. In the late 18th century he suggests Serampore was more important than Tranquebar for the Asiatic trade (p232). This is in large part remittances because ‘by far the most part of the Anglo-Indian fortunes had to be sent to England through the foreign European companies (Feldbaek 1969:27) and banned ‘country trade’ by English EIC officials had been ‘driven underground and forced to seek cover of foreign European flags’ (Feldbaek 1969:11).

Money

Asked for a few sentences on money. I did not need to spend a long time…:

Money, a gas, makes the world go round, is time, a general equivalent, great symbolic Molloch, a trap, it can’t buy you love. Marx made the case that the lust for gold left the capitalist class in the abject predicament of ideological entrapment, heading towards their own privatised proletarianisation as middle managers of an abstract machine. Well, those were not exactly Marx’s words, and things were much worse for those swapping overwork for underpayment. The alienated market in which we commodify ourselves, enslaved to corporate finance and instantaneous currency collapse disorder, does not offer a bargain option exit ramp. A paper equivalence leaves us folded and watermarked by secret speculations and the authorisation of bankers. KRS burnt a million quid and no-one thought of the Reichstag, even as the culture industry echoes a fascist denomination. I am no apologist for speculation, but the devilish secret of so-called fetishism comes with disembodied royal heads from the off. Welcome idea: abolish it.

John Hutnyk: trinketization