Category Archives: politics

Research on posters

Can someone in the UK souvenir one of these fab posters for me please (for ‘research’ purposes). I find them amazing. Yes, I know, it was the flip-floppery on Brexit, the contempt of the class (failure to purge the party, and inexplicable tolerance of the Blairite Right with their vicous articulation of privilege in a virulently prejudiced class system) and media demonisation. And yes, more youth and more votes and etc.

But this poster is truly awesome:

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Is this poster even true – crikey, there were posters like this! So bad, I want one. The absolute gobsmacking craziness of the three-toed mugwumps that dreamed these up. Oh, wait, maybe here, and here, and here:

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Foolish to ask if Jeremy can sue them – sue who? – for this kind of smear. Its of the level of the “For Wider Streets Vote Conservative” poster (that I love, and used in Australia) or the Saatchi and Saatchi (Thatcherite) campaign posters of yore. Only lawyers would gain from such a move. And, well, maybe that will permit the luvvies to indulge in still more endless recriminations, rather than getting in the way of a larger necessary project. They will never be the ones able to transmute the interest in the ‘manifesto’ into something that really is for the many.

The point is, if you can hear this outside the triple echo-camber, with the three scourges of pointless reaction: going off social media for a while, sniping at everyone, or I told you so (well, I did – can only support labour for so long) you can get on with generalising and universalising the so-called little Britain manifesto. Then, whatever the vote tally that so reassures you however you do the sums, it is still the case that a left labour step towards a larger communist future has to be better than what Boris has in store.

(NB. Before I knew he was labour party, that Jeremy bloke came to demonstrations I’d helped organise – eg a London group against the Internal Security Act in Malaysia, a protest of 6 people outside Malaysian Airlines office decades ago. So, you know, if he keeps on, it is a good thing. He does not have to be Jezza the superstar to do worthwhile things). So, in return for joining an overlooked cause, please see the video:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FJeremyCorbynMP%2Fvideos%2F448002489199292%2F&show_text=0&width=476

Then, finally, to bring something forward from elsewhere,there is Neil Davenport, who I also knew as a journalist in Manchester long ago. He seems spot on to say:

‘It is wrong to assume that a re-run of mild social democracy was to blame for Labour’s catastrophe on Friday. Instead it was a reliance on continuity Blairism that led to the collapse of its northern heartland. There are a number of key aspects of Blairism that Corbyn and Momentum continued and went further with. The most obvious one was Blair’s peace with the EU and outright Europhilia, a position miles away from Labour’s old left and ex miner’s in the north. Secondly, the replacement of class solidarity with institutionalising diversity and identity politics, with the narrative of suspicion and at times outright hostility towards its traditional constituency.”

and to point out the pressing need to dismantle the middle-class drive

“to culturally reform the masses along middle class hairshirt lines”

Yes – it is high time to abandon that moralising sermonizing class and tone – the very middle-class hairshirt which is so beloved of moaners of many stripes. It has always been a less scratchy version of hairshirt than usually imagined. I mean, it seems like it comes in a whole variety of designer styles, slinky, sexy, never take it off, dom-fem versions, versions approved by your valet, gortex and microfiber outdoor hiking versions and more. Suits you sir, they say. Wearing political t-shirts with a 800 thread count. That hairshirt comes tailored and home delivered in Rugby and Superdry options. Nothing should be moist. They for sure aren’t taking it off for a proper scratch anytime soon.

Frantz Fanon on Care, and more.

‘To care for someone is not only to give him or her the possibility not to die, it is above all to give him or her the possibility to live’ (1954 Bilda clinic journal – in Alienation and Freedom, p321).

And from his letter of resignation:

A society that forces its members into desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society that needs replacing. The citizen’s duty is to say so. No professional morality, no class solidarity, no desire to refrain from washing the dirty laundry in public, can have a prior claim. No pseudo-national mystification finds grace when up against the demand to think (Fanon, Letter to the Resident Minister, 1956)

 

And then I read some more – the whole volume is great and basically 800 pages in two days later, I feel like I’ve learned something and now have to go back and read The Wretched of the Earth again. So many reasons to be a fan of Fanon. For example, around the time of Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, when we know from De Beauvoir that Sartre was eating amphetamines by the handful, Fanon spends three days non-stop talking with Sartre. This is before Sarre rattles off the intro to Wretched.

Then on his library – at the end of the book there is one of those ‘what was in his library’ things. Fanon has some Plekhanov, a bit of Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, not much Marx, (the 18th Brumaire of course, the Critique, Anti-Duhring and something else), but lots and lots of Mao. I guess pamphlets he may have picked up in China. Also, Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard and a few other French thinkers of the 50s.

And Freud. It seems Fanon annotated his copy of Interpretation of dreams with quite hostile marginalia. For every time Freud uses the word ‘primitive’, as in ‘in primitive cases the sex drive is…’, Fanon would write the word ‘Bastard’ in the margin, with an angry exclamation mark. Choice. He was similarly unimpressed with Jung’s primitivism, though I have not found out what he thought of Mandalas and all that. Of course Fanon did start off heavily committed to electric shock treatments (to ‘clear’ a patient before rebuilding their personality) so criticism of Freud is worth a bag of salt, but he also went on to develop institutional therapy, and indirectly – through a follower – his Tunis clinic influences Guattari the the Bordo, and he was a huge practitioner of open psychiatry, that I now find out was started pretty much in Nottingham in the 19th century or so with the Mapperley clinic, eventually ransacked by Care in the Community, and now a National Health Trust facility that has been in deep trouble for various irregularities with funds and because the orderlies were writing the facebook comments on behalf of patients ‘who could not write for themselves’ or something like that (some TV expose).

All of this comes after reading Alienation and Freedom. How great to have a new Fanon collection of previously obscure and unpublished work, including all his psych essays and his dissertation. Alienation and Freedom basically doubles the amount of Fanon text in the public domain. And the critique of colonialism is a sharply relevant now as it was when France was the brutal colonial power it still tries to be under the armed wings of NATO.

The counter-revolution in Venezuela, by Saleh Mamon

Rosa now more than ever

Rosa now more than ever
Or why Rosa is someone who should be read at this point in time.
   To be a student of Rosa Luxemburg today is assisted hugely by the (hopefully ongoing) publication in English of her Complete Works, starting with the two volumes out so far on her anthropology studies and course on economics. This alone is enough to extend fourfold what most leftists might know of her, which is usually only a half-digested something or other about ‘spontaneity’ and a disagreement with Lenin.
   Now, over and over, more than ever, I see people worrying both about spontaneity and vanguards. They say it’s all terrible or it’s all fine (actually this borrows an early move from Mao, but still…). The communists hate the anarchists and the anarchists hate the communists, basically, for being too much like each other in all the ways that are wrong.
   My friend David Graeber for example says of the squares, Occupy, yellow vests and all future horizontal protests, that:
‘These new movements do not need an intellectual vanguard to provide them with an ideology because they already have one: the rejection of intellectual vanguards and embrace of multiplicity and horizontal democracy itself‘ infoshack, radioshackorsomesuch.com
Hence the need for Rosa. Against the idea that all we need is already delivered by those who say we don’t need the Party (albeit we don’t need some old fart Party, against the party I would lead, which would be available only to people who could name the stations of the Kronstadt). Anarcho adventures into the void will not do.
   At the same time, communist comrades are incensed that the anti-Leninist and verbose anarchists are undermining their theoretical primacy. Ha ha. Well overdue. As if their political, and philosophical, purity had been baptised and sanctified in previous militant vanguardist struggles such as … wait, I’m, where? When? Theoretical struggles perhaps. Bloody minded entryism, penetration and destruction. Fuck them too.
   So, Rosa for the Party and in symbiosis of a new moving type, moving with the masses – becoming masses, finding their unities, alongside and with Rosa, forming the Party that can keep forming across time. Since time is all the meantimes and meanwhiles where everyone but the caviariste class knows it’s long past the time when the shitty conditions in which most find themselves are such that with this up we cannot put.
Hence, Rosa now more than ever.
   A few brief words though. In common reception of Rosa, in particular with the spontaneity question, there really is a dangerous and defeating mistake made if Rosa‘s commitment to the masses is ever taken to mean no active organisation by the Party within the class forces. There were certainly, also shown in the Letters (same publisher, should be cheaper though), so many ways in which Luxemburg was committed to tendencies and factions within the Party, within the International and within the general Left movement. Her relationship with Kautsky grows fractious over time, her squabble with Lenin is really resolved by the time of the Bolshevik uprising, and between times Lenin had been visiting Rosa and stoking her cat – and being scratched by said kitten, because not all cats fell for Lenin right away. Though in due course…
   Luxemburg was well aware of the need for the class to be organised and able to move with the workers whenever the possibility presented itself, and without the ability to organise the Party to swiftly move into place alongside the ‘spontaneous’ uprising, there would be nothing afterwards. Listening to the sounds of adventurism crashing on the rocks – we need adventures and rock-moving teams (not rock spiders lying in wait with their entryism of doom). Rosa now more than ever. Albeit what organisation there was would be in large part itself only possible because of the tireless devotion of Luxemburg (or Cam) urging on the uprising at meeting after meeting. And indeed, what claim could she have for even being discussed by anyone other than adventurers at the barricades since we all know that her insurrection was crushed, she and her former lover murdered, by a repressive militarist counter-revolution. No, it would be dangerous not to realise that reaction is always already coming and that we also need to organise defense in offense. To say listen, stand aside, wait, all these give space for the reaction – fill the gap with forward and better, biger adn more power to the movements.
   Reading Luxemburg can show us why now more than ever. She does not come across in her writings, or even in her actions as revealed in her biography, or the letters, as someone with a blind faith in going out to the streets. She goes out in the streets. Also, she reads, she teaches, she deploys vast troves of footnotes and argument in an ongoing polemic that always sought to teach, but was always making space for contemplation, education and polemical life that was more than simple or naive spontaneity.
   Her effort was to make links with those on the streets, and she did this as a life-long commitment, and through long patient but urgent work, through talks, classes, writing and editorial meetings, with those inside workplaces and working class areas of the city so as to build the organisation around issues such as hours worked, wages, prices, subsistence, work organisation and justice for women, justice for murdered workers, justice for all. And forever pushing for a better argument and better outcome, aspiring to get the idea accepted that the communist dream was something that could be. Could be by force of her will perhaps, but as an illustration, and a model to be replicated, the path to a revolution that can be sustained is made clear.
   Her polemic with co-revolutionaries always strove towards improving her own as well as their capabilities, through argument to express her own will to clarify and build a revolutionary capacity. And to be able to present her ideas before the masses and at any time strive for the uprising that after-all was – and today has been for a long time again – well overdue. Listening all the time, she is never silent, since participation in the revolution comes from saying, loudly, what is happening, what you can see.
   And read, with care. Rosa does not say no to the Party, does not say no to Party organiser going out to talk to the masses, urge them with ‘fire in their bellies, and their minds’, but she does say no to a Party that is above the dictatorship of the class, no to the dictatorship of a Party or of a clique –yes to ‘dictatorship of the class’ which means dictatorship of the proletariat ‘in the broadest possible form on the basis of the most active, unlimited participation of the mass of the people, of unlimited democracy’ (On the Russian Revolution).
   Without the Party, Luxemburg is nothing, the revolution is nothing, and the masses have no voice. The Party is the organisational form that best coordinates the preparedness required to build alongside the spontaneous uprising of the masses when its best chances arrive. On many occasions the potential of such an uprising might seem more or less apparent, but without robust organisational preparation in place, the political movement will always lack consequence, be subject to fluctuations of spontaneity in the random sense – as opposed to the general sudden realisation that now is the time we have been preparing for, and when the Party serves the masses as a rallying cry, vehicle for articulation direction and aspirations for a path out of the horror of persecution, oppression and inequalities.
   Many skirmishes and test case battles prepare the ground for spontaneity of the revolutionary type. These disconnected struggles are the school for revolutionaries, the training and honing of skills in single issue campaigns, in local initiatives, in building comradeship and Party organisation. They cannot yet be the mode of transition to a communist future but they develop the possibility. Through local wins, and no doubt losses, coordinated battles and preparedness, anticipation, analysis and expectation – knowing perhaps a little more though this of what we might expect – the groups that work together learn together and will face down the tanks together. The Tanks are coming. Do not think Rosa now more than ever means they won’t – the ruling class will want to through us all in the canal. But we will swim. For this, reading, writing, distributing newsletters and papers, forums and research groups, all build – and crucially, reproduce – potential for spontaneity. Swimming in the spontaneous flow.
   The reading and research group is not the only form in which this Party as the vehicle of the wider class interests can articulate and hone its skill base, but it is all the more important because this form of organising has a role in defining and producing knowledge and analysis of the situations in which we are faced with oppression, exploitation, desperation and despair at the hands of capital.
   The urgency of the situation. it is never all day every day, and a part of it is reading, together. meet to plan and talk, if only over a paragraph n between urgent tasks and planning. This research group, that has read its way into a Marxist analysis will move forward and articulate further connections with the oppressed  and offer the classes knowledge not by telegraphing it in, or posting it on this blog, but by sharing not only knowledge as knowledge, but knowledge as a knowledge making process. A revolutionary act whose patron figurehead is also Rosa. Now more than ever. What then if in the current conjuncture those who rise up in protest do so on the basis of having come together over time to develop a shared analysis of the ways an exit from capitalism and oppression can be achieved with equally for all?

Yemen

There is near silence about the war on Yemen led by KSA and UAE and supported by US, UK and France indicating the success of public relations bought by Saudi money.
A school bus explodes:
Saudis: we deny doing that, we would not do that, even if it was a legitimate target.
UN: we will have an inquiry [yet to happen]
Saudis: the school bus was a mistake. [oops].
Here is the Saleh Mamon’s blog post on Yemen (also published by Labour Briefing).
Screenshot 2018-12-04 at 06.55.09
Read the rest here: Destroying Yemen
The hidden war in Yemen is reaching its genocidal climax   So effective is the suppression of knowledge about the war in Yemen by the mainstream media that 42 percent of the people in a recent poll…

Multitude redux Empire: wrong way, don’t go back, we should leave too.

People got wishful thinking a lot, and I am always for breaking the borders, but as this can be read from afar, I reckon yes, but the prognosis offered below by Hardt and Negri back in the Empire day ends up objectively anti-communist – the wrong side is lauded as abandoning the discipline of the system. What if rather, all the exploited under capitalism had pushed at the wall the other way, the former soviet block might not be a pit of cowboy corruption and proto-fascist gangsterism, but rather a renewal – walls can fall both ways, and maybe H&N were pushing the wrong way. I don’t mean everyone should now move to Mexico, but abandoning the shopping centre queues in favour of a Leninist discipline supporting an organised alternative to empty glitz is a long term better solution for all rather than this multitude exodus which does tend to me to sound a bit like Pol Pot’s year zero as well.

“A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration. All the powers of the old world are allied in a merciless operation against it, but the movement is irresistible. Along with the flight from the so-called Third World there are flows of political refugees and transfers of intellectual labor power, in addition to the massive movements of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service proletariat. The legal and documented movements are dwarfed by clandestine migrations: the borders of national sovereignty are sieves, and every attempt at complete regulation runs up against violent pressure. Economists attempt to explain this phenomenon by presenting their equations and models, which even if they were complete would not explain that irrepressible desire for free movement. In effect, what pushes from behind is, negatively, desertion from the miserable cultural and material conditions of imperial reproduction; but positively, what pulls forward is the wealth of desire and the accumulation of expressive and productive capacities that the processes of globalization have determined in the consciousness of every individual and social group—and thus a certain hope. Desertion and exodus are a powerful form of class struggle within and against imperial postmodernity. This mobility, however, still constitutes a spontaneous level of struggle, and, as we noted earlier, it most often leads today to a new rootless condition of poverty and misery. A new nomad horde, a new race of barbarians, will arise to invade or evacuate Empire. Nietzsche was oddly prescient of their destiny in the nineteenth century. ‘‘Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth century? Obviously they will come into view and consolidate themselves only after tremendous socialist crises.’’ We cannot say exactly what Nietzsche foresaw in his lucid delirium, but indeed what recent event could be a stronger example of the power of desertion and exodus, the power of the nomad horde, than the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the entire Soviet bloc? In the desertion from ‘‘socialist discipline,’’ savage mobility and mass migration contributed substantially to the collapse of the system. In fact, the desertion of productive cadres disorganized and struck at the heart of the disciplinary system of the bureaucratic Soviet world. The mass exodus of highly trained workers from Eastern Europe played a central role in provoking the collapse of the Wall. Even though it refers to the particularities of the socialist state system, this example demonstrates that the mobility of the labor force can indeed express an open political conflict and contribute to the destruction of the regime. What we need, however, is more. We need a force capable of not only organizing the destructive capacities of the multitude, but also constituting through the desires of the multitude an alternative. The counter-Empire must also be a new global vision, a new way of living in the world… If in a first moment the multitude demands that each state recognize juridically the migrations that are necessary to capital, in a second moment it must demand control over the movements themselves. The multitude must be able to decide if, when, and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship. This demand is radical insofar as it challenges the fundamental apparatus of imperial control over the production and life of the multitude. Global citizenship is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography.”

Thanks J Adams for the reminder of this bit of Empire

My longe essay critiquing Empire is here