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« April 2017 »
All Eyes on Longview:
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All
Dear friend(s) and comrade(s):
We are writing to inform you about a very serious class confrontation developing on the northwest coast of the U.S., in Longview (Washington state).
In that small city, an international grain company, EGT, owned jointly by three firms (U.S.-based Bunge North America, Japan-based Itochu and Korea-based STX Pan Ocean), spent $200 million constructing a new state- of- the-art grain terminal.
While the construction was underway, EGT indicated that it would continue to employ the 225 members of ILWU Local 21 in Longview, in keeping with the solid unionization of west coast American ports since the 1930’s by the ILWU (International Longshore Workers Union).
Instead, when the construction was completed, EGT turned to a “rogue” union, General Construction and Operating Engineers Local 701, with the intention of displacing the ILWU with a “sweetheart” contract saving the company (according to its estimates) $1 million a year in labor costs.
Building Up an Institution of the Common
Interview with Gigi Roggero from Edu-factory
“What was once the factory is now the university” states the international Edu-factory collective, which started off as a mailing list of 500 students, activists and researchers worldwide. They argue that in today’s cognitive capitalism, we have experienced the transformation from organising knowledge from above to the capture and expropriation of common knowledge after it is produced. This appropriation and exploitation of knowledge produced in the common opens up for a possibility that lies in the autonomy of knowledge production. The fact that knowledge today is produced in the common also makes it possible for us to re-appropriate it. The Edu-factory’s attempt to create a global autonomous university is a way of reclaiming such common knowledge. Edu-factory writes, “Theoretical practice is always political practice, and political practice is not only theoretical practice”. They claim that there is no production of knowledge that is not political. Theory is always a field of struggle and in times of “cognitive capitalism,” perhaps one of the most important. We met with Gigi Roggero, one of the initiators of Edu-factory at the Labour of the Multitude conference in Warsaw to talk about Edu-factory, recent university and precarious workers struggles, and ideas of autonomous education.
From Occupation to Communization
I first heard the slogan “Occupy Everything” in 2009 during the anti-privatization protests that shook the University of California, where I have been a graduate student since 2007. During the first weeks of the fall semester, that slogan gradually came to mean something specific, something razor-sharp, in a way that has been diluted in the present wave of protests. On September 24th, when students at UC Santa Cruz occupied the Graduate Student Commons, the words “Occupy Everything” could be seen spray-painted on the side of the building. The same moment saw the publication of pamphlets and websites devoted to theorizing and propagating occupations, bearing the slogan, “Occupy Everything, Demand Nothing.” But it was the slogan of a vanguard, not the broad majority of protesters, and referred to the controversial tactic of forcibly locking down campus buildings with bike locks and barricades without any provision of demands or benchmarks for de-escalation. Occupations were a contentious tactic both inside and outside the organizing coalition, especially since the point wasn’t to force a negotiation with the administration, it was rather to block business as usual—and also, at least in theory, to wrench a parcel of space and time free from the capitalist order. This last point proved to be an Achilles heel for the UC occupations, since the occupiers had to rely on the very structures and temporalities of student protest they aimed to supercede. What they wanted was a commune—to communize, more specifically—but this would remain an elusive horizon during the first two years of campus revolt.
A Movement Without Demands?
Marco Deseriis and Jodi Dean
The question of demands infused the initial weeks and months of Occupy Wall Street with the endless opening of desire. Nearly unbearable, the absence of demands concentrated interest, fear, expectation, and hope in the movement. What did they want? What could they want? Commentators have been nearly hysterical in their demand for demands: somebody has got to say what Occupy Wall Street wants! In part because of the excitement accumulating around the gap the movement opened up in the deadlocked US political scene—having done the impossible in creating a new political force it seemed as if the movement might even demand the impossible—many of those in and around Occupy Wall Street have also treated the absence of demands as a benefit, a strength. Commentators and protesters alike thus give the impression that the movement’s inability to agree upon demands and a shared political line is a conscious choice.
Walter Benjamin, The 120th Anniversary of His Birth
If 2012 is the year our world comes to an end, as
doomsayers predict, that will provide additional
employment for the angel of history, who observes the
past and the wreckage of humanity as described by
Walter Benjamin in his essay "On the Concept of
History." But if the world and its inhabitants continue
to exist, they will be able to observe, next July 15,
the 120th anniversary of Benjamin's birth. His
influence has only been growing in recent decades, and
his writings are increasingly the inspiration for
discussion and reconsideration.
The growing corpus of works about Benjamin is about to
be augmented with the publication, in January, of a
comprehensive study, "Walter Benjamin: A Philosophical
Portrait," by Prof. Eli Friedlander (Harvard University
Press ). Friedlander, head of the Philosophy Department
at Tel Aviv University, discusses Benjamin's approaches
to concepts such as history, mythology, language,
beauty and truth. His aim is to tie together the
threads of thought spun by the philosopher, who
committed suicide in 1940.
Plato’s Republic and Student Loan Debt Refusal
"Everyone would surely agree that if a sane man lends weapons to a friend and then asks them back when he is out of his mind, the friend shouldn’t return them, and wouldn’t be acting justly if he did." — Plato, Republic 331c.
Over the last few weeks I have been speaking in support of those who have pledged to refuse to repay their student loan debt once a million others have also pledged to do so (under the rubric of Occupy Student Debt, its website is www.occupystudentdebtcampaign.org). In the course of giving a number of presentations concerning this campaign I received many queries and criticisms. The queries were most often practical, e.g., “what about co-signers, what will happen to them if I refuse to pay when I become the million and first student loan debt refuser?” The criticisms were also practical, ranging from “why not organize people to refuse all debt?” to “if you refuse to pay student loans debt, wouldn’t the Federal Government stop supporting the student loan program at all and hence you would harm future students?” I was prepared to deal with these practical questions and criticisms on their own terms, with empirical evidence and political argument.
New Guragon Workers Newsletter
Gurgaon in the industrial belt of Delhi is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, China or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities.
Zombie 2.0 Subjectivity: A New Dromological Paradigm
At the end of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, the remake of the second film in Romero’s Living Dead series, the spectator is faced with footage from a videotape. Paradoxically placed at the end of the movie, and more precisely integrated with the end credits, the footage appears to work as the happy ending of the storyline. It follows the journey of the main characters, escaping the overrun mainland by yacht. The remaining survivors eventually reach an island. It takes only few seconds for the alleged happy ending to be transformed into a repetition of the same eschatological setting, with which Snyder had opened his movie. In fact, the island has already been infested by zombies. The contagion was faster than their journey to the island. The zombies are too fast to flee from. The survivors are not going to survive. The character filming the disembark is forced to drop the digital camera on the dock, and from that moment onwards the camera shows the scenes of the desperate attempt of the group to resist the running hoard of undead.
"Star Trek, Marx and Time Travel"
[As a software specialist, Alan Shapiro would like to set the digital
world on a new footing. As a philosopher, he wants to introduce new
thinking into the world. And as an "anarchist reader of Marx" (self-
description), he not only steers Marx's critique of capitalism in a
new direction, he also believes that alienation and exploitation can
be dragged and dropped to the trash of history. Shapiro, who at one
time worked at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT), has been active for 20 years as a software developer and media
studies scholar, especially in Germany. In February, he will be a
signature speaker at the 2012 Berlin Transmediale media and art festival.]
Neues Deutschland: You want to develop a completely new kind of
computer, and found a New Computer Science. How are we to understand
Existing computers are based on the scientific norms of the 17th
century. They go back to the mechanistic philosophy of Rene Descartes.
Their goal is to reduce complexity. A problem is broken down into
smaller, more manageable units. This works for a kind of machine-like
software. There is no holistic relationship between the parts and the
whole. The parts and the whole are related to each other like the
parts of a car. In 20th and 21st century philosophy, by contrast, a
lot of emphasis is placed on an integral perspective. I am thinking
above all of the French thinkers like Deleuze, Baudrillard and
Foucault. The New Medicine and the New Biology are also characterized
by an integral approach.
The Economy of Abolition/Abolition of the Economy
Neil Gray in exchange with Marina Vishmidt
Marina Vishmidt’s article for Reartikulacija, ‘Human Capital or Toxic Asset: After the Wage’1, reflects upon, among other things, human capital exploited as investment portfolio in ‘The Big Society’; affirmation and negation as political potentialities; the fragmentation of the class relation based on waged work; financialisation and the collapse of social democracy; the politics of reproduction; and the imposition of, resistance to, and potential negation of debt. All this through the prism of the ‘communisation thesis’ which seeks to move within-and-against defensive ‘programmatic’ struggles that tend to reify (class) identities, towards everyday struggles that supersede value, exchange, market relations, and proletarian identity itself – in a constitutive rupture with its previous situation. Not just a change in the system, but a change of the system; not later on, but now. This thesis, which develops from a long-view structural perspective of post-Fordist/Keynesian conditions in the labour market, is fraught with difficulty given the seeming hegemony of neoliberalism and the evidential need for defensive strategies against market command. Yet the communisation thesis describes the problematic of the present class relation in an extremely prescient manner that takes us well beyond the rote formulas and responses of much of ‘the Left’2. The exchange below, with Marina Vishmidt and Neil Gray, aims to elaborate some potential lines of this debate with particular reference to the politics of reproduction and debt.