hydrarchist's blog

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from Kapucsinki's "Shah of Shahs", p134-137 The picture was clipped from a newspaper so carelessly the caption is missing. It shows a monument of a man on a horse, atop a tall granite pedestal. The rider, a figure of herculean build, is seated comfortably in the saddle, his left hand resting on its horn, his right pointing in something ahead (probably the future). A rope is tied around the neck of the rider, and a similar rope around that of his mount. In the square at the base of the monument stand groups of men pulling on the two fines. All this is taking place in a thronged plaza, with the crowd watching as the men tugging on the ropes strain against the resistance of the massive bronze statue. The photograph captures the very moment when the ropes are stretched light as piano wires and the rider and his mount are just tilting to the side-an instant before they crash to earth. We can't help wondering if these men pulling ropes with so much effort and self-denial will be able to jump out of the way, especially since the gawkers crowded into the plaza have left them little room. This photograph shows the pulling down of a monument to one of the Shahs (father or son) in Teheran or some other Iranian city. It is hard to be sure about the year the photograph was taken, since the monuments of both Pahlavis were pulled down several times, whenever the occasion presented itself to the people. A reporter from the Teheran newspaper Kayhan interviewed a man who wrecks monuments to the Shah: -You've won a certain popularity in your neighbor- hood, Golam, as a man who pulls down monuments. You're even regarded as a sort of veteran in the field. -That's right. I first pulled down monuments in the time of the old Shah, that is the father of Mohammed Reza, when he abdicated in '41. I remember what great joy there was in the city when news got around the old Shah had stepped down Everybody rushed out to smash his monuments. I was just a young boy then, but I helped my lather and the neighbors pull down the monument that Reza Khan had se up to himself in our neighborhood. I could say that that was my baptism of fire. -Were you persecuted for it? -Not on that occasion. -Do you remember 53? -Of course I remember. Wasn't that the most important year, when democracy ended and the regime began? In any case, I recall the radio saying that the Shah had escaped to Europe. When the people heard that, they went out into the street and started pulling down the monuments. And I have to say that the young Shah had been putting up monuments to himself and his father from the beginning, so over the years a lot accumulated that needed pulling down. My father was no longer alive then. but I was grown up and for the first time I brought them down on my own. -So did you destroy all his monuments? -Yes. every last one. By the time the Shah came back, there wasn't a Pahiavi inonuinern left But he started right hack in, putting up monuments to himself and his father. - Does that mean that you would pull down, he would set up, then you would pull down what he had set up, and it kept going on like this? -That's right Many times we nearly threw in the towel. If we pulled one down, he set up three. If we pulled down three, he set up ten. There was no end in sight. -And when was the next time, after '53, that you wrecked them again? -We intended to go to work in '63, when the rebel- lion broke out after the Shah imprisoned Khomeini. But instead the Shah began such a massacre that, far from puffing down monuments, we had to hide our hawsers. -Am I to understand you had special hawsers for the job? -Yes indeed! We hid our stout sisal rope with a rope-seller at the bazaar. It was no joke. If the police had picked up our trail, we would have gone to the wall. We had everything prepared for the right moment, all thought out and practiced. During the last revolution, I mean in '79, all those disasters happened because a lot of amateurs were knocking down monuments, and there were accidents when they pulled the statues onto their own heads. It's not easy to pull down monuments. It takes experience, expertise. You have to know what they're made of, how much they weigh, how high they are, whether they're welded together or sunk in cement, where to hook the line on, which way to pull, and how to smash them once they're down. We were already working at pulling it down each time they set up a new monument to the Shah. That was the best chance to get a good look and see how it was built, whether the figure was hollow or solid, and, most important, how it was attached to the pedestal and how it was reinforced. -It must have taken up a lot of your time. -Right! More and more monuments were going up in the last few years. Everywhere-in the squares, in the streets, in the stations, by the road. And besides, there were others setting up monuments as well. Whoever wanted to get a jump on the competition for a good contract hurried to be the first one to put up a monument. That's why a lot of them were built cheaply and, when the time came, they were easy to bring down. But, I have to admit, there were times when I doubted we'd get them all. There were hundreds of them But we weren't afraid to work up a sweat. My hands were all blisters from the ropes. -So, Golam, you' had an interesting line of work. -It wasn't work. It was duty. I'm very proud to have been a wrecker of the Shah's monuments. I think that everyone who took part is proud to have done so. What we did is plain for all to see. All the pedestals are empty. And the figures of the Shahs have either been smashed or are lying in backyards somewhere.
1. Intro to autonomous media infrastructures: - anecdotes - autonomous platforms a focus for those engaged in developing technological and communications infrastructure involved in oppositional or contestational political activity. Target: CNN: quality of service: akamai Obstacles: minimize technical expertise required, minimize creating disappointment due to temporary technical outages 2. Technological preconditions - compression reduce to 10% of original size - bandwidth: flat fee, all you can eat - storage space: exponential - p2p models top distribute the load, remove a single point of failure, robustness (possible also using multiple ftp servers but less elegant) reduce vulnerability to legal attack (copyright owners, police) Systems born with purpose(unlike video blogging): developed in tandem with the experience of the pirate networks experience during feb15th ftaa (lost tapes) build band of materials for telestreet, satellite broadcasts Why: importance of av literacy: limited av lexicon: our imaginations are substantially formed by stories told by others: disney and children, wholesomeness, ideological products (1) Distribution & Archival (2) Production different p2p protocols have different uses: maximal efficiency for dealing with large files: bt persistence, library and long term availability: ed2k 3. Models: distribution of finished projects: ngvision ftp/p2p architecture codec: divx 10m/p/m rss metadata naming conventions creative commons non-commercial massive use: 550 films 4000 downloads via ftp/p/week 6000 bt downloads off that one tracer alone 3a. Archive.org 4. Models: distribution of raw materials intended to be used: v2v codec: ogg theora 15m/p/m rss tool for encoding from dv to theora metadata etc bit torrent/magent/ed2k change model of production by distributing the production process (new york berlin rome shoot stuff for one another) 4a: Political question about representation and the difference between organizational models today and yesterday: not propaganda, no party line, independent infrastructures upon which it is possible to build many different gateways which can be designed according to people's own sensibility. 5. Question of community existing political affinities exchange feedback downstream benefits (screenings, logistical support) 6. Licensing: - non-commercial will not transform the model of production - specific types of media have determinate life cycles: television news - ethical questions arise in the context of some pieces of footage 7. Back to community: collaboration: sustained exchanges based on trust where questions about: decision-making ownership and control credit - GPL represents a social contract which is easily understood, community generated understanding, av community needs the same thing. .... are negotiated 8. From production to distribution: the full articulation of the change in distribution into the production sphere: - cyberpunk educator - the ring of free trade - subtitling - echochamber 9. Spaces for viewing Piratecinema.org uses of ipod or mp3 player devices as portable hard disks for promiscuos information exchange 10. Limitations: - no marketing budget the sustainability question has been partially but not fully addressed: how to liberate time for people to work on things they want or believe how to get out of the contradiction between wanting maximal access and some income (income becomes political question involving arts funding and public broadcast licence allocation) * contrast: BBC 11. technical problems: ISPs as gatekeepers discriminate against non-commercial services: the idea is to reproduce you as a passive consumer of other people's stories. - artificially limited uploads - transfer caps - traffic shaping - legal assault in its various guises DRM, control of hardware, selective prosecution 12. Purpose: Tell our own stories, not to recreate forms of ideological communication linked to the past. V2V - A User Built Infrastructure for Video Distribution Background Since the beginning freedom to communicate has been bridled by costs of production and distribution. Gutherberg, creator of the first modern printing press, was himself the first victim of media venture capitalism, losing his machinery to the financier Fust shortly after its completion, who consigned it to his son-in-law, Guthenberg's apprentice. Books also required transportation and booksellers to distribute them, and especially where controversial materials were at issue this was a risky affair - twenty years prior to the liberation of the Bastille nearly 40% of those locked within its walls were serving sentences related to the booktrade. The twentieth century had its own form of controls, more tactful and becoming a civilised dictatorship of opinion. Distribution mechanisms were bought up and cartellized; alternative models such as cable or satellite required a level of investment that demanded commercial for-profit operation, all carried out under a state of artificial scarcity imposed by government through its management of radio spectrum. With the award in 1996 of a huge slice of the radio licenses to the incumbent television networks under the pretext fo the need to shift to High Definition Television the US government left no doubt that the synergistic utopia between the forces of media power and the political class remained intact. Simultaneous with these developments however there was another: the formation of diffuse networks sharing files horizontally, parsing information for one another, recombining each other's data and forwarding it onwards. This tendency received a quantum boost in 1999 with the emergence of the first mass file sharing tool Napster that established the technical conditions for the massive point to point transfer of media files directly from one user to another using HTTP. This tool rendered clear to users what would later be articulated by network analysts as the fundamental characteristics of digital production. First both the inputs and the outputs were informational. As such they had what are known as 'public good' characteristics, namely that the cost of paying for initial production includes does is that of all subsequent copies. Furthermore the ability of one person to use the data does not hinder from the opportunity for any other to use the same data. Secondly, co-operation was made easy by a huge decline in communication costs, so that all one needed to know was whether a file was online at a given time or not, and this functionality was handled by the search interface. Thirdly, the ease of connecting the network provided a gigantic base of users with different types of files - elsewhere peer systems have succeeded by providing access to a panoramic range of living labour. Fourthly, all of these things had been rendered possible by the massive decline in cost of computational equipment capable of processing, storing and retrieving widely dispersed data - this apparatus provided both a means of production, and when attached to the network, a means of distribution. As the jaws of the law closed in on Napster, and the latter attempted to weather the storm by becoming a commercial operation and initiating negotiations with commercial interests nominally owning the digital goods being shared, numerous alternative file-sharing systems arose and flourished. Most of these networks however contained similar content predictably mainstream in character, and so the process of user passivity to protagonism seemed stalled, locked into the prison of the imagination that had been constructed by decades of marketing, promotion and imagineering. V2V V2V is conceived as an answer to several problems. The first is to make critical and creative work more widely available and familiar. Secondly to lay the plumbing of a network upon which people will be able to build their own gateways, according to their subjectivity. Thirdly to encourage users to allow their materials to be used as building blocks for others. Fourthly to enable a space for users and producers for feedback and the development of relations. The fundamental resource necessary for V2V are plentiful bandwidth and storage space. Many high-speed services now charge a flat rate based upon the presumption that users will only use a fraction of their notional capacity creating a surplus available for allocation to purposes other than personal data transfers. Likewise the dizzying speed at which hard disk space has grown means that many users have surplus memory that they do not need. These two factors combined with evolving peer to peer protocols satisfy the necessary requirements to begin building a user-based infrastructure. Given the permeation of internet coordination into social radical organizing that community is already quite elaborately networked. Communications have emphasized organization of demonstrations and events, or the development of common analytical resources however rather than the collectivization of unused transmission resources. Increasing amounts of our media consumption are digitally delivered while commodity process continue to drive down the price of equipment and connectivity such that what today appears as a service available only to limited sections of the population will be extended to the population as a whole. By assembling this infrastructure now we can anticipate these developments, refine our techniques and be ready to convey our meanings to a wider audience. Sustainability & Scalability Our history is littered with the contradictions of independent media structures and few have managed to retain their integrity. The reason for this has been the cost-sustainability nexus. As a magazine's readership grows printing costs increase, the level of commitment required of the writers rises and deals with commercial distributors become difficult to avoid. Typically two outcomes emerge. The first is dependency on external forms of funding from foundations, arts councils or private individuals. As anyone who has failed in a grant application is well aware, this reliance introduces distortions, both obvious and subtle, in purpose and self-perception. This tension is accentuated as the project expands and the discrepancy between external funding and internal revenue generation grows. Professionalization is the other path that often awaits sometime critical endeavours. Daily newspapers such as Liberation and Tageszeitung in Europe are good examples of this, as are the various free-sheets in the United States such as Village Voice. Over time this commercialization eviscerates the critical quality of the work and imposes a 'mainstreaming effect'. Peer to peer forms have the potential to scale through these difficulties without imposing financial burdens. As a network widens, its new participants bring additional resources so that the 'load' is distributed over a greater number of machines. The programme that we recommend for downloading files "Bit Torrent" illustrates this point. the performance of file sharing protocols such as Gnutella and Fast Track (Kazaa, Grokster) is handicapped by the fact that there are many users who only download files and do not contribute resources to the network. This is the problem economists classically refer to as 'the tragedy of the commons' or 'free riding'. In short the refusal of some to share inhibits the functioning of the system as a whole. Bit Torrent distinguished itself from these protocols by hardwiring in the code the obligation to share a file as one downloads it. The initial source of the file is known as a 'seed' and it distributes different components of the file to requesting clients. Each client is also connected to a 'tracker' that monitors which users are active and which elements of the file are in their possession. Via the tracker the clients then begin a coordinated exchange of packets between one another, gathering data from multiple sources simultaneously in a swarm formation. The result is that the higher the level of demand for a file, the more sources exist and the better the performance of the system. Modus Operandi Submitting materials to the network requires the following steps. First the file should be compressed with the codec of your choice. If pressed we commend VP3 and XVid because of their non-proprietary character or DivX because of its efficiency and ubiquity. Ultimately however such technical determinations are not the province of V2V. The file should then be renamed following our naming convention, which means simply the addition of v2v_ before the file name. This convention makes it easier for users to search for independent files within the larger sea of music and video files.Basic data about the file must then be provided by filling in a form at v2v.indymedia.de that provides a summary of the genre, length, size, format, description, language and license type. When completed this file downloads to your desktop. Both the media file and the .info metadata form should then be placed in a folder with same name as the file and the uploaded via FTP to a V2V server. This means that the load of the initial wave of demand is spread over the servers and the time required to transfer is reduced. The servers are set up with a scrip that proliferates the file through the server ring and generates three links. The first is a 'magnet' link and is commonly used by Gnutella Clients. The second is an eDonkey2000 link for clients of the eponymous network. The last is a torrent file, which must be downloaded and then opened to commence the transfer. Finally the news of the file's release appears on a V2V site/RSS containing both the basic metadata and the p2p links. A Syndicated Network and No Exclusive Gateway V2V is a protean group composed of many diverse subjectivities. To try and capture them all in a definition of political purpose or cultural hue would be reductive and futile. The characteristics of the network also make it unnecessary. V2V is an infrastructure project to which each can build their own gateway. Files uploaded are published to an RSS (really Simple Syndication) wire that can be integrated into any page alongside one's own content or links. We urge others to form their own release groups, digitizing and making available files that reflect their interests. Individual Bit Torrent files and edonkey links can easily be copied and added to pages or emails. A Community of Produsers "...where the gift is concerned, goods circulate in the service of ties. Any exchange of goods or services with no guarantee of recompense in order to create, nourish, or recreate social bonds between people is a gift. We intend to show how the gift, as a form of circulation of goods that promotes social bonding, represents a key element in any society." Jacque Godbout Cultural workers are standardly used as source of moral authority by the copyright lobby as if the production of capitalist culture was not also a matter of exploitation of artists. Despite common adversaries little meaningful dialogue has taken place between cultural workers and p2p users. Users are depicted in a parasitic light -- when not portrayed as 'pirates' or 'criminals' -- as their activity is presented as consisting only in the unsanctioned consumption of the work of others. The lucrative rewards of mass culture are available however only to a handful, those whom the entertainment magnates have decreed will receive millions of dollars of promotion. For the rest there is the work of the journeyman, debt or the part-time job. What keeps most independent culture alive is the rich fabric of community that makes the uneconomic possible, the myriad DIY film showings and concerts, the small magazines and distros, the tapestry of email lists that provides a conduit for feedback, response, and engagement with the meanings produced. And of course there are the beds and couches to sleep on all over the world, the curious packages and letters received in the post. To this list of 'benefits' provided by users and peer relationships we can add two others. The first is the actual physical and telecommunications platform upon which works can be hosted persistently and served at speeds that make viewing convenient rather than just feasible. Secondly the release of the material takes place into a crowd of potential emissaries, from individuals to independent film theaters and public access television. Collaborative software allows commentary to be added directly to the notice of the film's release so that dialogue between users and producers occur, a dialogue which could relate to the substance of the film, the technique behind a shot, and offer of assistance or an invitation to present one's work. As the costs of equipment fall further, and video-editing skills proliferate, further inflections in literacy occur and more people will write audio-visually, Garage TV and Belles Images. Every user will also be a producer, and these categories will cease to have any salience in the age of the produser. This promiscuous mixing of images is anathema to copyright lovers and the interests behind them, but disturbs others as well, who have seen their work exploited, decontextualised and appropriated. Yet we know that copyright infringement makes no sound in cyberspace, and that such cries can serve to legitimize the fashion for extending control, monitoring and police-ware in the network. Away from the clumsy vice of the law space for reciprocal respect is fundamental. The licenses we attach to our achievements are signals about the way we want to be treated, appeals for fair attribution, for the protection of the subject, for protection against unjust profiteering. Mutual parasitism is possible but requires that we are all careful not to kill the host. 1. SETI example 2. Visibility There's No Such Thing as Free Beer (as Mako pinted out about piracy as cheap advertising) Limits of freedom: commodity form; sharing of mainstream media products contributes productively to maintaining mainstream preferences. Payment may be lacking but the formula upon which the media companies relies remain intact: popularity of their archive produces revenues to control contemporary production and marketing, guaranteeing their dominance over the future. P2P distribution risks becoming a mechanism for the reinforcement of preferences alrreqady created by the market. Pirate Challenge The battle has been won in distribution of the commodities. The amount of materials which are out there; the extent of the code base, functioning implementations; proliferation of physical devices that allow us to share outside without being online, via firewire or USB. New Horizons The full articulation of the changes in distributions impact on productive processes in the audi-visual field is still to come. The raw materials are there. User interfaces to allow editing and recombination are being progressively simplified: don't think avid or final cut pro, think quicktime pro, iMovie etc. Do it and then distribute via p2p. Space of reception Like the independent bookshop, the indie cinema is disappearing. Fortunately there is the rise of the amateur illegal, and 100% pirate. A place to show films entirely outside of industry distribution mechanisms, to free ride on their popularity, to enable spaces for the socialization of film through discussion, possibility to acquire copies. http://www.piratecinema.org Product placement: millions of dollars are the evidence of the value producing capacity of media products as mirrors refracting our world, encouraging and fashioning consumption. Distinction between free infrastructure and the affective effects of media in the production of exchange value. The first is the basis for the potential assault on the other, the possible platform for a self-determined reverse engineering of the mind. Without the second aspect the first loses its political significance, but it is necessary, it at least affords us the chance to make our own mistakes. When we counterpose free to proprietary, we are really talking about the problem. path dependency Some Consequences 1. Law 2. Censorship 3. Space of politicization created by repression of file trading laws. joolsyp@blueyonder.co.uk Negri doc New Global Vision Established in 2001, following the G* demonstrations in Genoa, born of the urgency to disseminate information, not only to the world in general but to the 300,000 who had taken part in demonstrations that had been physically broken up by the police, leaving one dead, hundreds injured, hundreds arrested and tortured in police custody. Video distribution was already taking place on VHS, but was too slow, its coverage was minuscule, and there were the limitations imposed by cost. FTP servers were established and video updates circulating materials some taken from local television, most drawn from individual film makers and camera-operators. It was a massive success and the process took on a life of its own: today the ngvision archive contains over 550 films. these are not the 7 second clips of shadows or people falling over on a friday night. they are finished works of different standards. Statistics: 4000 downloads per week BT- 4 world war - 6,000 times off the bit torrent tracker alone. Memory, but also about a dialogue with the present.
Naples, Rione Traino-Campo Flegreo, this years hackmeeting started today in an abandoned industrial complex in a working class area with a reputation, or so they say. The social centre Terra Terra has been occupied for two years by young people from the surrounding area. Every social centre has its style, from the ornate artisinal moaics and modificationsin Barrochio (recently object of a fascist attack where two occupants were stabbed), to Forte Prenstino (where something simlar happened two weeks earlier, one stabbed) whose walls are covered with comic art fused with hip-hop murals. In TerraTerra the walls are covered with banners, hand-painted slogans, mixing Mayakovski with anti-imperialism - hammer and sickles are the leitmotiv! But hey, I'm a libertarian and they're not stalinists, part of the lost tribe of anti-statist communists with a little sauce leniniste. At the hackmeeting every year is different, not just another city, but another 'reality' understood in terms of political orientation. The HM is not bound by such dynamics but is obviously only some people's cup of tea. Subjectivity! What would we do without it! But back to the fascists, because it is now becoming a serious problem and the situation is ominous. There has been a notable and probably orchestrated escalation in fascist violence, complete with its anachronistic connotations of a time past, designed to cause massive damage or seriously injure, if not kill, libertarians and communists or randomn strangers hostile to their biological or identitarian concept of clannish purity. In the last twelve months, to count just the cases that come to mind, there have been 6 people stabbed in milan as well as five serious arson attacks, 3 in bergamo and two arson attacks on the same social centre, two knifed in turin, where one person suffered grevious injuries requiring emergency surgery, one slashed neck in Rome as well as a building bombed. All of these attacks hit self-organised and occupied spaces, some of them also homes, squatts. It seems archaic but you can feel that things are getting serious. These assaults find people a little unprepared, understandably as to dwell on the extreme right-wing and their tiny social base is agitational harakiri. Yet, it remains a fact that unless a convincing social response that mitigates the problem is demonstrated soon, the initiative will pass to those who will interrupt the fascist monpoly on politically motivated assault on individuals. Necessarily so, if the alternative is simply to be reduced to subordinate in a context where the victor can enforce randomn bheatings at will. That's not a reasonable proposition, and one unworthy of the tradition of insubordination with which these places, in some ungraspable way, identify and belong. On the cusp of leaving Italy it was important to come here, the site of the only community my imagination allows me to fully identify with. Here self-organization is the rule; assumption of responsibilityl; no policy taken for granted; no delegation; commoners of free software & redoubt of pirate pride. Unlike typically political contexts in Italy, no-one would even dream of playing the leader here, sociality and willingness to learn and teach are the only passports. Even amongst the most autistic there is the reassuring shiver of mutual recognition, rumours of a memory from moments past; Genoa, Bolognese cousins, Turin, the brothers and sisters from reload in Milan (irreducible to the bland denomination of comrades, compagni, a term used here more as a from of emotional blackmail than as an attribution of affinity and substance), the hacklab in Perugia, the pirate television in Naples. In the ludic atmosphere it'd be easy for one to miss the fact that here the game is grand. That the means of production and signifying have been seized. But we do not create all the facts. Elsewhere, it is a moment of regression in Italy, of degeneration. Economic stagnation permeates everyday life, scarce social or labour mobility, a captive workforce in an increasingly expensive city in sum. With the defeat in the referendum on assisted pregnancy, research and stem-research and the genuflection to catholic doctrine by much of the politicasl class, and notably leader of Margerita, Ruttelli, now openly wooed by Berlusconi in the impending showdown with his nemesis, Prodi, who already defeated him in the nineties. Politically it represents the increasing boldness of the recycled orphans of the discredited DC. I'm afraid that there will be a death, and consequent intensification of time spent in defensive or offensive measures against fascist gangs, by christmas at the lastest. A question has been posed. A ressusitation of antifascism as ideolgy would be catastrophic. It would in fac be to assume the same wacky marginality which the fascists themselves have within the electoral system. Arriving in the Naples alone I happened on some milanese heading the same way. There subsequently followed a ritual attemot by the taxi cartel to rip us off ;-) and we acted all haughty! 200 metres later we found aguy who offered a reasonable deal, and took us in 5, which was cool, and didn't give a shit about the law! But Napoli has a differential adoption of legalism. Adter all I've seen families of four without helmets drive around Naples on scooters, which is a lot of transgressions, theoretically... Any way, he was decent and interested in history so we got talking about Massianello, whom I learnt about in Lienbaugh and Rediker's book. Massianello led what they characterise as the first modern popular insurgency. After ten days of Naples under insurrectionary control, they were crushed and Massianllo was beheaded on the Piazza del Mercato. L&R suggest that knwoledge of the rising, transmitted through sailors, soldiers and political agitators, influenced the course of the englisgh revolution which occurred alnmost immediately afterwards, the debates at Putney etc. The aggression with the fascists feels far away. Perversely there was a stabbing amongst leftsists here last week, the first incident of its gravity that has occurred in the recent years. The authorship of the deed is attributed to a group characterised by its stalinism, and fixation on avantgardist and militant-purity fantasies. They don't seem to have learnt very much from the 1970s, but rather inherited some of the worst of its most grotesque explanations and applied them to a world irreversibly changed. I like Napoli but I don't really get it!
[During the summer of 2003 I took part in a border camp in Frassanito along with friends from Rome and further afield. It's a small town on the Salento coast, but was chosen because it is nearby the CPT mentioned below. For the moment, however, just some facts.] In March 2005 don Cesare Lodeserto, director of the immigrant detention centre (CPT, "centri di permanenza temporanea") "Regina Pacis" di San Foca a Melendugno, on the southeast coast of Italy near Lecce, was arrested for a range of abuses (assault, illegal detention) carried out against those incarcerated in his care. On 12 May 5 people from involved in this campaign, all from Lecce, were arrested on charges of subversive association with intent to subvert democratic order. Press coverage has sensationalized them as anarcho-insurrectionalists, a recurring obsession of several italian newspapers who regularly publish creative writing presented as 'news' speculating on the danger posed by this tendency. Little or no attention has been spent on examining the maltreatment suffered by those unfortunate enough to be in the custody of this employee of the Curia of Lecce (bishop Rupi). Simultaneous with their arrest occurred at least 20 searches in Aosta, Cagliari, Torino, Trento, Trieste, Chieti, Taranto and Catania. The arrest warrants were issued by a local prosecutor in Lecce, Antonio Del Coco. Those under arrest are always been investigated for direct actions against Benetton and Esso. On May 26th the prelate was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment for having faked death threats to himself. Meanwhile his trial (alongside eighteen others accused of similar offenses including members of the police and other personnel in the CPT) continues. Some of these offenses occurred in the context of an attempted escape by thirty migrants from Regina Pacis in november 2002. The priest recounted how there had subsequently been 17 other similar incidents. On the same day further arrests took place in Viterbo and Pescara as part of the same investigation for subversive association. A grassroots inquiry into legal action against protagonists of social struggles estimates the total number of those accused in recent years at 8000.
[please do not circulate, this is a draft for a magazine, composed some time ago and now needing renovation ;-) Comments and criticisms on the other hand are needed!] Vampires of Value, Masters of Repression As the lawyer triumphantly heralds the prosecution of a 12 year old girl for activity carried out from her own bedroom I can hardly keep a sense of disbelief at bay. The girl resides in a council flat in Brooklyn, just a couple of miles from the manhattan venue of this "intellectual property" industry meet. He is celebrating this ghastly event because the music industry jihad against file-sharing is understood to be a fight over the definition of norms, and demonstrations that even children and pensioners are not safe from the disciplinary intrusions of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is exactly the type of fearful lesson they wish to impart. In truth the prosecutions being conducted are intended as spectacles for the consumption of the criminal mass, seated in front of their televisions. And gallingly this at a time when music industry sales are increasing for the first time since 1999. Developments in the US put us on notice last year that the intensity of the p2p wars stood ready to escalate, and industry has initiated litigation against 6,500 individuals so far. No surprise then when hostilities commenced in Europe in April, opening with nearly three hundred actions against users in Italy, Germany and Denmark. Shortly afterwards France followed suit, and in October the UK and Austria joined the modern-day witch hunt, whilst in Iceland raids have been carried out in at the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America's local arm. (MPAA). Elsewhere the offensive remains purely at the level of threats (Ireland) or attempts by the private sector to coerce state action (Spain). Industry's strategy now revolves around four pillars: prosecutions, the indoctrination of children, a high-profile re-education campaign and moves to introduce legalized channels for commodity downloading such as Apple's iTunes. The tools of industry-driven pedagogy range from the grotesque to the merely absurd. MPAA ads depict the industry as a sort of friendly society for the working class (please don't download, I'll lose my McJob!). These advocacy ads include unlikely defenders such as cinema employees whom enjoy no union and hyper-exploitation. In the UK one copyright-partisan, obviously an admirer of Borges, encouraged children to add that holy of holies, the circled c, to their homework - has he forgotten the anthropological centrality of cogging amongst pre-teens? Meanwhile, a variety of talking heads roll out tired shibboleths about p2p as an endless vault of paedofilia and, as is now quasi-liturgical, how piracy is funding terrorism. This ritual canard was most recently hoisted anew by John Ashcroft whilst presenting the latest installment of the Mills & Boon tale that is the relationship between state and the entertainment industry. The report uses the threat of poor quality counterfeit merchandise as the pretext to embark on a widescale expansion of the criminal justice apparatus dedicated to sniffing out IP crime. The means to do so are of course institution creep, or the use of the IP question to demand budget and recruitment boosting of the FBI and Department of Justice. Music to industry's ears, as there is little they could more desire than to transfer the cost of enforcement - technical surveillance, gathering of evidence, lawyers fees - from their own coffers to those of the state. Beefing up domestic enforcement is twinned with an intensification on the international level, where government is to institute law-enforcement treaties, prioritize IP expansion and policing in trade agreements, and the specific suggestion to second DOJ agents to Budapest and Hong Kong and involve FBI legal attaches already implanted within US embassies abroad (executors of the recent seizure of indymedia servers in London?). It was the DOJ's CCIPS that recently, and to great fanfare, dedicated huge resources to busting a Direct Connect ring called the Underground Network (http://www.udgnet.com/), composed entirely of amateurs, for criminal copyright infringement. "Today's investigative action sends a clear message to online thieves who steal the hard work and innovation of others. And it sends a clear message to those who think nothing of downloading those stolen goods to their computers or MP3 players. You can pay the fair value for music, movies, software and games like every other consumer, or you can pay an even higher price when you are caught committing online theft." John Ashcroft 213 separate lawsuits in the US have been filed against named defendants refused RIAA overtures to pay up $3,000 and promise to behave. --------------- Beyond the futility of this campaign there lies also a perversity. The music industry is founded on constructing and capitalizing niche and youth cultures, producing or amplifying styles and generally exploiting the cultivation of the self which the attraction of tends is based upon. Viral promotion of bands by their fans combined with an adroit PR campaign have been staples of celebrity-manufacture. Music companies are pioneers in online promotion through chat-rooms and the use of undercover marketing in the streets. And the commercial result - thanks to a stern dosage of commodity fetichism - manifests itself in the purchase of CDs whose retail price obviously has no relationship to the cost of production. So in what way is file-sharing a nuisance rather than free labour allowing a greater penetration of the target market? This is the crux of immaterial value. And it is precisely because of its fugitive and intangible nature that the processes of exploitation upon which it depends are ignored or taken for granted. If repetitive motion of the hands characterized labour in the industrial era, it is the persuasive and explanatory power of the word and the smile of reassurance on the face that denote our time. The exploitation of relational abilities is key in the era of market super-saturation; only the personal touch, the soothing word of the telephone-operator, the personalized recommendation can create brand loyalty. Filesharing will eventually result in the relocation of monetization in the productive process, a tendency already plain in the software industry and which some see emerging in pornography as well. Other forms of scarcity can be manufactured around celebrity than mere plastic disks. Furthermore numerous commercial revenue streams can be policed easier than before. What is true in production is echoed in research and development - oceans of diffuse innovation and the archipelagoes of specialist knowledge networked, achieve what was once enclosed within specialist labs and universities; teenagers code the systems underlying transnational corporations, users create new applications of existing technologies, workers equip one another with knowledge between peers. This everyday catastrophe produces anger, anxiety and frustration. In other times these were the base metals for dissident alchemy; from them arose the desire to understand and change everything. Today, the atomization of social and working life undermines tentative steps towards social rebellion. Overwhelmed by a dizzying production of images, nonsensical and mendacious messages from a media oligopoly with a vital function within semiotic capitalism, the individual has difficulty in making sense of an environment so obviously flawed. Follywood excludes any collective reflection and canals the viewers dissatisfactions into individual alienation, with consumption and self-reliance the only antidotes offered. It is impossible to imagine how to exit the present without understanding (1) the way in which value is now created, the productive process which reorganizes power within the relations of production and the desires of those who bring it labour. (b) Intellectual property laws determine redefine how wealth is divided and the relative power of employers and employees (c) With the end of the point of physical production as the place where value is concentrated and supply can be stopped, conflicts cannot unfold as before. Each individual piece is substitutable both in terms of factory sites and personnel. Stoppages and sabotage of course continue to disrupt but they cannot provoke the crisis within an individual firm so as to change the balance of power. A communications strategy poses the problem in terms of the popular perception of a struggle (is it right? are common interests made visible? is it inspiring? are the protagonists people like us?) which will be determinant in deciding the success of any other industrial action or workplace agitation. An industry where the ability to monetize the product is entirely based on laws artificially restricting reproduction, thereby eliminating competition and the enabling imposition of monopoly prices on consumers. The cultural product's ability to create revenue derives from pervasive media's capacity to promote it, associate its consumption with a desirable state of being and ultimately assign it iconic status; the success of these pitches are determined however by the user/consumer, whose decision to employ a given totem as a tool of identity or relations with others determines success or failure. The manufacturing and distribution process complies with the predicates of postfordist economics: manufactured in a location chosen on the basis of the global cost of labour, distributed and sold using a casualised flexible workforce. The contingent nature of the production process makes it imperative for industry to intervene in the course of technological development to disable uncontrolled reproduction and to erect repressive legal machinery to wage war on insubordination from the businness model. Copyright violation arises as a diffuse conflict because the means of production are immediately available. Trademark law, enabling the generalized accumulation of immaterial value as brand and has a more pervasive effect on working life but yet is not challenged in such a diffuse way simply because few people have the means to open a MacDonalds or a Nike Store anyway. Likewise patent laws have devastating effects which are more difficult to impose with immediacy because the complexity and capital inputs required are beyond the scope of anyone but the super-rich or the corporation. The current drive to introduce software patents is an exception to this and is being widely opposed, for the moment by political means but later other strategies will be used, probably akin to what has ahppened to CSS and DRM. In addition both of these contexts require fixed production/distribution centres vulnerable to police targeting. Illegal drug laboratories, commercial counterfeiting operations. The rupture between price and cost is rendered clear in cultural goods by the fact that that there is little difference between the price of CDs or between the that of books or movies. Of course the costs of production are not the same; stephen king will not write a short story for less than a million, over 90% of the books published finish with authors being paid buttons. Likewise there are massive divergences in the outlays on promotion. The price structure is determined by and for industry purposes and 'authors are merely an input, notwithstanding the trade associations pretensions to chivalry in their defense. Business stands to lose because as soon as the scarcity resides in the author the boot is very much on the other foot, although the industry in many countries control the infrastructure for live performance to a substantial degree. Cultural symbols effectively benefit from a sort of non-linear and frequently niche-focused type of network effect. The concept originated in the telphone system where the it was understood that the addition of every individual user made the network more valuable to everybody. Developments in compatability today have made this less relevenat in telephony and now it is usually discussed in relation to software. The point is that in all these cases the work of adding value is done by the user, not the producer, a function of the common even though the fiscal benefits accrue to the private. In France the SCPP (collective rights society) is the agent of the repressive turn: filing complaints that result in house searches, examination of users' computers and seizure of mastered CDs. Such was the case for Anne-Sophie Lainnemé, a 27 year old unemployed woman from Rennes, charged with downloading and making available music via Kazaa. The approach of the SCPP make the RIAA as they proceed without sending a mail of warning or using the ISP as an intermediary to pressurize. ******* That trademarks constitute the giuridico-divinities of the brand universe is news to no-one, but the tendency towards their naturalization should be resisted. GM note that the ability of Nike to sell their shoes at $100 poses a problem in terms of understanding the contemporary nature of exploitation, the intensified penetration of the accumulation process into leisure time and lifestyle, and the rewards that await products that can insinuate themselves into the space of peer evaluation. But let's consider another example: pharmaceuticals. Until 2001 Eli Lilly held a patent on fluoxetine, the prescription drug marketed as Prozac. The latter continues to be synonymous with depression medication and it sells at up to twenty times the cost of unbranded fluoxetine which is identical in every respect but the packaging and the marketing campaign.This is also why most pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much on marketing as they do on research and development. This redefinition of value by a combination of a fetish added tax (F.A.T.) and consumer created utility is a death sentence for the centrality of live labour in the field of production of goods. The effectiveness of strike action at the point of production is set on a descending slope. New tools are needed; forms of sabotage of the affective and relational skills put to work, and as p2p shows there are large potential spaces for users to reappropriate rather than just working as unwitting ancillaries to immaterial business strategies. If "progress" had any sense of sportsmanship, then the manner of distributing wealth would modulate in line with this increasing collectivization of the production process. Instead we are witness to increasing income polarization, the repeal of mechanisms of collective guarantee established through struggles of labour over hundreds of years, often paid for in blood, and the resurgence of forms of exploitation akin to slavery and feudalism. As the extension of working life is extended against the grain of technological development, let us rail with Raoul Vaneigem: "The tripalium is an instrument of torture. The Latin word labor means "suffering". We are unwise to forget this origin of the words "travail" and "labour".
[please do not circulate, it would be embarassing!] Immaterial value, communications strateg and the search for complicity. The last six months have been a time of intense discussion regarding the relationship between communication and struggle, furnishing some concrete examples fleshing out their different consequences. What follows is a synopsis that covers the period from Incontrotempo, the 'festival of the urban precariat' held in Rome, to the media-hoax Serpica Naro recently conducted during "Fashion Week" in Milan. The diversity of local contexts makes treating Italy as single frame of reference a risky business. Rome and Milan, site of the actions herein recounted, display radically different characteristics which help explain the different emphases, resources and modus operandi. Milan's style and entertainment industries stand at the core of the cities wealth, and as a corollary are a key site of both casualization and the transformation of the city according to the needs of these industries. The city is ruled by a despotic rightist, Albertini, who enforces a zero-tolerance policy towards social opposition, especially evident in the difficulties encountered by the housing occupation movement who are ritually evicted in short order. In Rome on the other hand the flashpoints are largely clustered around services, care and social workers, largely employed by private companies or co-operatives which bid on tenders administered by the city council, although there have also been conflicts within the television sector and call-centers. At least 39,000 people are employed in this indirect fashion by the city council through contracting. The competition between tender-bidders drives the squeezing of labour (the major factor in the cost estimate) and the renewal of such deals every three years makes sustainable organizing difficult. This occurs in a city which otherwise likes to market itself as a torchbearer for global poverty alleviation, a hub for solidarity with children and above all center of world peace of every stripe. As befitting the laboratory for centre-leftist management in governance and the home of the Vatican! Rome in Autumn: Incontrotempo At the beginning of october several hundred people from collectives all over the country came to an occupied greyhound track (Acrobax) for the Festival of the Urban Precariat. In addition to sessions devoted to housing struggles and the network of advice centres (sportelli) there was also a lengthy discussion around the relationship between communications and struggle. It was also the first moment of organization in a process that would conclude dramatically on November 6th with actions and a demonstration for the right to an income uncoupled from the obligation to work. The discussion involved people in specific struggles (such as ISTAT, the city kennels, the cooperatives) together with collectives formed around communications production. Essentially the discussions teased out the the theme around four elements relating to the immediate needs of those in conflict and then broader strategic considerations related to an analysis of the changing social situation: 1) The most urgent need is to create materials capable generating consensus around the agitation at the site of the conflict. Here the focus is on communication as an instrument for internal organization. 2) Broadcasting to the city - productions for radio, video, reworking of informational materials so as to be accessible for the wider public, and to explain who should respond to the demands, placing them under pressure. In addition to these specific challenges during a mobilization, two other points were emphasised regarding the integration of communications processes in both the objective of the action and the way in which it should be executed. Chainworkers underlined the importance of acting at the level of production of immaterial value, and thus the need to damage the image of the company concerned, but also of privileging communication and informal relations with the employees at the selected site. P2P fightsharing proposed a rereading of action-design, where the means of action themselves generate spaces of complicity between those in struggle and a wider public who must be mobilized, or at least persuaded, so as to construct a favorable balance of power with 'the opponent'. Unconditional Income This concept is often misunderstood in Northern European countries as being a demand for social welfare, the dole. In fact the energy behind it emanates from the refusal of work elaborated during the 1970s, the fight for the liberation of time from activity coercively mobilized for the production of profit. It exceeds the moralistic demand for redistribution (although its vision is premised observation of the abundant productive capacity of the system) and insists that we are productive in an economic sense even when not officially "at work". When we are exposed to advertising; when we consume leisure; when we discuss the films, books or music that interests us, wearing branded clothes that turn us into walking billboards, when we raise children and clean the home, when we follow the basic protocols of everyday social cooperation that facilitate the "normal" functioning of society as usual. Within this demand contend two divergent visions articulating the objective and the underlying rationale. The first postulates unconditional income as a remuneration of invisible labour, but by premising its claim on unaccounted productivity risks legitimating the hegemony of profit-producing social organization as a whole. The second critiques this implicit acceptance of productivism and argus for a subordination of economics to the full development of the individual, a view well expressed by Andre Gorz: "The existence-income only has sense as an attack against labour value if it neither requires nor remunerates anything at all: on the contrary its function is to restrict the the sphere of value creation, in the economic sense, by making possible the expansion of activities that create nothing that can be bought, sold, or exchanged with anything else, nothing thus which has a value (in the economic sense) - but only non-monetizable wealth having its own intrinsic value. By liberating the production of self from the constraints of economic valorization, the existence income should facilitate the full unconditional development of people beyond that which is functionally useful to production." (L'immateriel, p.31, my translation) All Saints v All Shits - S. Precario at Esselunga October 30th had been agreed by those involeved in the Mayday process as a date for actions around centres for advice and conspiracy - the "San Precario Points". In Milan this took the form of a ludic invasion of the Esselunga Supermarket in an action dubbed All Saints versus All Shits, it being halloween. 80 adepts of the cult entered and installed themselves nearby the check-out with effigy and standards, erected a sound system, and initiated discussion with shoppers and workers about their labour conditions and ability to make ends meet. Shopping trollies were taped together infuriating some rather short-tempered shoppers, but otherwise the actual operation of business was not physically impeded. Interviews were videotaped and questionnaires distributed, together with prayer cards for San Precario naturally. Champagne was taken from the shelves, opened and distributed to all, although some workers declined stating that they couldn't drink on the job! Otherwise the merchandise on the shelves was left unmolested. Notwithstanding the peaceful nature of the action 21 people now face quite serious charges. November 6 Demonstration for Income Italy has only a very limited social welfare apparatus, payments are available only on the basis of work related contributions. For those who have nothing, it's a case of tough shit, and difficulties making ends meet are widespread, aggravated by recent increases in the cost of living. As elsewhere, the introduction of the euro was used to mask an increase in prices at a retail level. In addition apartment rental costs have increased due to speculation and privatization. In Rome today it is difficult to find a room for less than 450 euro in a situation where wages are pathetic. Working conditions have been in rapid descent for years as the casualization multiplies; there are now an estimated 7 million (27% of the workforce) as well as an additional 2-3 million working under the counter, often legal or illegal migrants. The second annual demonstration for income - intended in a broader sense than the unconditional form described above - took place at the beginning of last november. An action based on the theme of reappropriation was called for the morning, and the operational details were decided by a coordination of Roman groups. The morning began with what was intended as a collective negotiation of a reduction in grocery prices at a supermarket (owned by berlusconi) in Pietralata, a suburb where Pasolini shot his films about the Roman slums. The cash registers were blocked and negotiations began to demand a 70% reduction in prices for everyone in the supermarket. Whilst the management hummed and hawed, more proletarian methods were brought to bear and the commodities began to walk. Huge hams, booze, chocalates, food of every type. Meanwhile, upstairs in the clothing and electrical goods departments things really escalated: computers, flat screen monitors, dvd-players, cd-burners and anything else that wasn't nailed down. was liberated. Outside booty was distributed to the "public" and bottles opened. The cops realized the situation was ungovernable and left. The whole thing lasted about an hour after which we hopped on the train and went back to the centre of the city. The afternoons demonstration had a much more diverse composition and included many delegations from labour flashpoints including Alitalia, ISTAT, the organised unemployed from Naples, as well as innumerable smaller and less publicized situations. In addition there was mass participation by housing occupants from Rome organized by the cities three housing coordinations and predominantly involving migrants. Many unions and social centres also brought sound systems on trucks as the day is conceived as a street parade. In the preceding week there had been various proposals for actions at the Feltrinelli bookstore, en route, but none of them had been formalized nor socialized. Originally these speculative actions were going to focus on copyright or the libraries, but the morning's events had let the genie out of the bottle: 200 people entered and staggered out with as many books as they could carry (between 1500 and 2000 according to the proprietors). Hysteria immediately broke out in the press which outdid itself in proposing absurd historical parallels, proclaiming the return of the 1970s and referring to the participants as autonomi and disobbedients (a structure which had just officially dissolved itself amidst considerable rancour!) Amidst all this spectacularization, predictably, the urgent needs of a that vast swathe of society broadly represented in the street. Besides lurid resurrections of proletarian expropriations that occurred before most of the participants were born, the press rounded up the usual suspects, movement talking-heads who had developed a national profile due to the counterproductive use of spokespeople. These figures were treated as being leaders around whom a caricature of the social categories at play could be manufactured, insulating the broader society from the suggestion that there is a widely-felt social problem, and presenting them as political specialists akin to party leaders. Unsurprisingly this functions so as to impede wider public identification and subsequent aggregation. This problem had been anticipated and it had been agreed during planning meetings that no group should present itself as representative or spokesperson for the demonstration, a promise which unfortunately was not fulfilled amidst the spectacular feeding-frenzy. In fact it became clear that the movement was entirely lacking in the methods and instruments of self-representation capable of reflecting its irreducible diversity, its commitment to processes of self-organization and rejection of the cults of personality, and the basic rules of the Political game, etc. This initial failing, provoked by standard media mechanisms, was compounded by the related lack of agreed protocols as to how communication should be handled afterwards. Meanwhile recriminations abounded as to whether the events of the morning had in fact been spontaneous or architected by elements who wanted to hijack the occasion for the purpose of raising their own visibility. The ultimate outcome was utter defenselessness before a media barrage which fictionalised and falsified the purpose of the day, and in terms of communications strategy was a miserable failure. Thye silencing of movement personalities and tardy depersonalized interviews with San precarion on television and in print were too little too late. Professional Notoriety: http://espropriproletari.com One intervention did try to use the experience to reveal the operation of immaterial value and media processes. Guerilla Marketing opened a website playing on the medias nostalgic readings and offering a unique new service to retail outlets: Espropriproletari.com They underlined the tremendous amount of publicity accruing to a firm "victim" of a "proletarian expropriation", and proposed an ascending scale of packages available for purchase by proprietors to have one organized at their store. According to the clients taste they could have from 70 to 500 participants congregate to remove specified quantities of goods from the shelves. For an additional payment the presence of a "nationally recognizable movement figure" could be guaranteed. They underlined that they already had a large number of precari enlisted and willing to undertake the job if fairly remunerated for producing the type of publicity which, after all, money cannot buy. Subsequently they held presentations soliciting CVs from would be precarious collaborators. It must be said that in some parts of the movement the sophistical of this proposal was unappreciated, and treated as an attempt to capitalize on the movements stigmatization. If nothing else however it served to focus people's minds more critically on their unwitting complicity in media paradigms and to illustrate the mechanisms of brand construction. Coming Soon - the thrilling story of Serpica Naro and the mysterious "Chainworkers"!
[please do not circulate] Introducing Mayday The Milanese Mayday was launched for the first time in 2000 by a collection of groups coming from grassroots trade-unions, social centres, workplaces. Much of the original impetus emanated from a small (but perfectly formed!) collective named Chainworkers, established for the purposes of agitating at the sites of labour in the consumerist metropolis such as shopping centres, fast food restaurants, franchises. From the beginning emphasis was placed on establishing direct contact with those working there and the use of communications techniques borrowed from the world of subvertising and the creation of a carnevalesque atmosphere inspired by Reclaim the Streets. Whilst grassroots trade unions such as the CUB and COBAS have been vital to its construction, this should not lead us to believe that Mayday is a simply a rerun of the the rituals of the workers movement as historically understood. Focusing on the concept of the 'precarity' of life under contemporary state capitalism contains an implicit rejection of the proposition that the workplace is the unique or privileged site for the development of personal subjectivity, identity or tension with the current social order. The mobilization was an immediate success, attracting the participation of 5000 people. Process/Europeanization Participation in the Milan event has grown massively each year and in 2004 for the first time it was complemented by a kindred mobilization in Barcelona that attracted up to 10,000 precarious revelers. This success, combined with both the failing energy behind summit protests and the proliferation of fights in the new work-places, prepared the ground for further multiplication on a european level. Apart from such contingent elements, there was also a recognition that the imposition of new rights from below necessitated coordination and action at the same political level as the emerging European super state, otherwise national struggles would be left to perish in their singularity or in the best of cases be undermined through the race to the bottom between the individual social states (known elsewhere as the theory of comparative advantage). Solid contacts already existed between movements in Italy and Spain and these were soon complemented by the working relationship developed with the French Intermittents (creative workers and technicians in the entertainment sector) who began a struggle against the disassembly of their social guarantees in the summer of 2003. They took their actions outside of french territory with an occupation of a french cultural institution in Rome around New year 2004 and had their own contingent and float on the 2004 Mayday four months later. London was the location for the third European Social Forum last october and the parallel autonomous space "Beyond the ESF" served as host for the first europe-wide assembly for the construction of Mayday 2005, attended by individuals or representatives from 20 countries as well as people involved in migrant-work/no border campaigns (notably the Frassanito group). Subsequent meetings took place in Berlin (January 2005) and Paris (March) and it was decided to call for a day of action around freedom of movement on April 2nd. Through these meetings the skeletal form for a european network has been assembled, but it remains in embryonic form. Work-related legislation, social welfare systems and individual entitlements -- just for starters -- vary wildly from country to country and complicate the process of agreeing to common demands. Predictably some of the stiffest disagreements unfold between groups from the same national territory. Emblematic in this respect is Italy, torn between the demand for the unconditional income uncoupled from the obligation to work (reddito incondizionato) -- a vision inspired by a refusal of work -- and the call for the creation of a welfare system, flexicurity, capable of providing continuity of income whether one is employed or not. Italy has no basic system of social welfare akin to that in Ireland, UK and many north european states, where such entitlements are under a massive assault by the state (Germany being the most dramatic example). Precisely for this reason it is difficult to enthuse people in the north around an idea of flexicurity, which seems like a cosmetically enhanced version of what we already have. On the other hand, the demand for unconditional income implicitly requires absolute rupture with the existing social organization, which pragmatically seems unlikely in the immediate term. On the ground such theoretical oppositions matter little in the fights actually occurring, where the important thing is to win concrete gains thus constructing momentum and vindicating the need for collective organization. Such divergences at the level of ideas are further complicated by differences in political culture and the social location of critical cultures within their own societies. In the mediterranean a history of mass mobilization coexists with a youth counter-culture, in some parts of central and northern europe 'alternative' movements have distanced themselves from the everyday social conditions experienced by most people, and in still others there is little counter-cultural influence and orientation towards popular organizing. Milan 2005 The sun blazed on the square as we arrived near Porta Ticinese early on sunday afternoon, and even though the official departure time was still an hour away there were already thousands of people milling about. Milan's Mayday is a parade that this comprised more than forty trucks, some of them up to fifteen metres long, bedecked in banners, graphics and especially sound systems. Indeed if the carneval didn't attract so many participants the audioscape would quickly descend into an unbearable cacophony, but fortunately this isn't the case. Conceived as an event organized by the precarious for the precarious, as opposed to a mobilization of strictly ideological character In the order of the trucks priority is given to those representing workplaces or organizing around other sites of social life, for example several floats were themed around the socialization of the city, the politics of food, sexuality.... The result is an extraordinary and beautiful mozaic that reflects the enormous concentration of creativity, and makes the whole thing refreshingly attractive and ludic for both participants and onlookers, many of whom are enchanted into following this collective pied piper of Hamlyn... People cluster through affinity, occupation, musical preference and social sensibility, and most of the floats are also mobile bars, which is pretty handy (and economically advantageous for both organizers and revelers), such that a distance of twenty metres or so is established between each truck. This opening block is followed by the floats from the grassroots unions, then come the other 'national' structures and finally those belonging to parties (Greens, Commnunist Refoundation) and unannounced arrivals. This order was decided prior to the parade specifically so as to preempt jostling for position motivated by perceptions that the order reflects a symbolic order based on political weight/importance, and lay at the root of ugly scenes that nonetheless irrupted later on. The Unbeatables Several groups in Milan have excelled in the implementation of ingenious communicative innovations which have given the process a unique character, many of them clustered around Chainworkers and Reload, both of which are based in the social space Pergola. The particular magic of their approach lies in the conception of icons and self-representative forms which leave space to reinterpretation such that they have been enthusiastically embraced by other singularities. Last year was the moment for the unveiling of San Precario (Saint Precarious) which hitched a lift on the back of Italian pop catholicism so as to create a totem that could be used diffusely to give visibility to the precarious state, and generated innumerable processions, cerimonies and acts of reappropriation. A second stage was the development of a series of advice centres and spaces for complicity and conspiracy in diverse social environments -- San Precario Points -- united by a common branding campaign such that each could benefit from the national profile while retaining their specificities. This year the focus moved to the enhancement of social proatgonism on a mythopoetic level: bring on the Unbeatables..... Each of the twenty two Imbattibili were conceived by the groups in the opening block of the carnival. They represent different characteristics of 'superheroism' rather than superheroes. Whilst the creation of a superhero -- along the lines of Superbarrio in Mexico? -- maintains the myth of the individual who can rescue you from adversity, the Unbeatables are about bring out the extraordinary powers each of us contain when we assume control over our own destines and decide to fight for our rights: don't delegate, act for yourself. Every character has a sticker, and a small book was distributed to collect them in. Underneath each sticker is both a description of the field of activity in which our everyday heroes exert themselves, and rating of their levels of (a) precarity (b) combattivity (c) flexibility and (d) imagination. Wonder Bra, for example is a: "Switchboard operator during the day, sex worker by night, housewife in what's left of her time. The technologies of wash and dry, smooth and admire, orgasm and thanks are not enough to liberate her time. The goddess of fireflies gives her succour, giving her the power to whip out two arms at the same time. With some colleagues she opens a hardcore telephone sex line (more fun and better paid). Thanks to the ability to rework time and skills she is given another super power: 4 bracelets shoot lasers that turn bad luck into virtue." Super Flex on the other hand: "Has experimented with every type of contract, co.co.co., co.co.pro, part time, fulltime, vertical part time, horizontal, transversal and oblique, intern, apprentice, in work training, The stress provokes a pleasurable mutation of their very molecules, developing the innermost ability of their minds: they actually manage to communicate mentally with all the other Superflex, giving life to the universal precarious conspiracy" Quit is the revolutionary inside the nerd: "A programmer and system operator who works on project-based contract who is putting together a revolutionary man-machine data-communications system. During testing a blackout wipes out their minds with a rush of Mb creating the prototype for artificial intelligence: Quit is born. From that day onwards he alters the contracts in the databases of temporary employment agencies. He invades corporate networks revealing shared knowledge and free software to the young precarious computer programmers. The Unbearables functioned on many levels within Mayday. Firstly it provided a comfortable space to develop informal cooperation with groups of workers in different sectors in a playful way which left the power of representation in the hands of those directly involved. Even very recent contacts such as those in the Feltrinelli chain of bookstores (Robin Book!) were thus able to make a direct contribution. Secondly the book itself works as a very effective form of polyphonic representation, where the specificities of different groups are kept intact whilst at the same time they have an amplified power for being beside one another. Each float had thousands of stickers to distribute, obliging collectors to move throughout the parade and come in contact with the different realities so as to assemble a full set. And perhaps most importantly, people loved it. Children were enthralled, their parents seduced, the fetichist in everyone was drawn out: people wandered around asking one another if they had extra stickers, or to swap doubles. movement and communication was generated within the parade and drew onlookers into active participation. I smile now thinking of the little girl at home reading about Wonder Bra..... The complexity that permeates today's world suggests to me that it will be impossible to find a single characterization into which all tendencies towards social insubordination can fit. Many leftists squander incredible amounts of time gazing into a crystal ball seeking a simple formula which they can use to propose a new unified social subject, a colossus capable of being built into a single uniform social body capable of fighting 'capital'; amidst all this abstraction the richness of a million micro-rebellions, always subjective, often partial, are marginalized. The sticker album allowed one to visualize the network from which it emanated, and didn't have to mention network once. Composition A notable virtue of the Milan parade was its diversity. There were droves of women where normally they compose a clear minority (a survey on social centres performed during the 90s in Milan put the figure at just over 30%). This gender division could still be seen as one moved back through the trucks into the more traditionally political blocks. Needless to say there was an exceptional concentration of femininity around Serpica Naro (the fashion stylist created as a media hoax to detourn Milan's fashion week) but also near the floats focused on social work, hardly surprising considering the continuing gendered division of labour. Secondly there were big contingents of migrant workers who are at the cutting edge of exploitation, often in the lowest waged sectors and more often than not employed under the counter. In recent years it has been they who have been protagonists of huge struggles particularly in the north where labour demand means they can work but continue to be treated as untouchables. That a process of convergence has at least begun can be attributed both to work done by some of the unions and the recognition of their specific difficulties deriving from the constant gauntlet of being illegal, or dangled on the thread of temporary work permits etc. Whilst predominantly young, including a huge number of teenagers, there were also a lot of families and a fair number of middle-aged people, something likely to grow given the ongoing erosion of labour guarantees and the further permeation of casualization into age groups once believed to be spared this destiny due tot he strength of the Unions etc. Interesting in this regard was presence -- in uniform -- of a large group of firefighters and unionized workers from the combattive/syndicalist unions that reject partnership models (CUB/RdB, COBAS, USI) Final estimations of the number present hover around 120,000, but it's difficult to say with any accuracy and of course there is an inevitable tendency to inflate the figures so as to provide the sense of a gathering dynamic. Last year they said there was 100,000 so this year there had to be more! In any case, it was massive, the streets were packed and as river of bodies snaked its way through the streets it was impossible to see the full crow until it flowed into Piazza Cadorna at the end, filling the square. Past nightmares weighing on the living Whilst the day was incredibly inspiring and joyful it was also marred by a violence that seemed tom emerge from a history book. Until the early 1990s it was common for different groups on the Italy extra-parliamentary left to attack one another on demonstrations. Violence with the police was a commonplace and this led to the development of what were know as "servizio d'ordine" which are something like stewards groups. Originally conceived to protect demos from the police/fascists, they soon took on a life of their own and became instruments also for the "sorting out" of political problems between different factions. This subsided during the 1990s without ever entirely disappearing. At the beginning of the parade those managing the truck belonging to Global Project, from their Milan section centred around a social space called Le Cantiere, decided that they had been unjustly placed too far back and that they were going to 'jump the queue'. Seeing as the order is determined in advance to avoid such tensions the outcome was predictable. At a certain point they began to row with the Unionists from the Cobas and the Romans from social spaces Acrobax and Vittorio. A fight ensued during which people from Le Cantiere produced pieces of wood and batoned people. Three romans were hospitalised and several others injured. This incident inflamed existing tensions within the Milanese movement and for many of those involved the parade became coloured by bitterness and paranoia. Later several more people were beaten by the same faction after one of them had thrown an empty can at their truck in anger at what had happened earlier. The two incidents combined to detonate rage against the Global truck which was damaged whilst people from le Cantiere were literally chased away from the square. On tuesday night all the other milanese groups involved in the Mayday issued a collective communique effectively isolating the Cantiere, stating that there would be no more collaboration with them, and offering solidarity to those attacked. This ugly footnote i have deliberately left till last because frankly it appeared so surreal. 95% of those present had no idea that this was unfolding and would have been bamboozled to hear about it. What type of thought process can drive a group to baton another over whether they come 25th or 30th in the order of the procession? This squaddism seemed like a strange visitation by a spectre alien to the present. Whereas elsewhere in the parade we remarked on the extraordinary fact that Mayday had such a pulsating and joyful an atmosphere, that it has succeeded so hugely in tapping the subjectivity of a generation which has rejected traditional models of political organization, that it is of its time rather than a mere rehashing of the past, here we saw also the worst of politics, a zombie culture emerging from grave, whose grip we must slip.
[please don't circulate] Vindictive Memories by Giorgio Agamben The Italian political class, by rejecting any possibility of an amnesty for offenses committed during the "years of lead", sentences itself to ill-feeling: what should be object of historical investigation is treated as a current political problem. Like many categories and institutions of modern democracy, amnesty can also be traced back to athenian democracy. In 403 AD, in fact, after having overthrown the bloody oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants, the victorious democratic party gave a sworn guarantee in which they committed themselves to "set aside ill-feeling" (me mnesikakei, meaning literally "to not remember wrongs, to not have bad memories" "not to remember past evils") towards one's opponents. By doing this the democrats recognized that there had been a stasis, a civil war and that a moment not-remembering, of "amnesty", was now needed so as to reconcile the city. In spite of the opposition of the more fractious, whom, such as Lisa, demanded punishment for the Thirty, the oath was effective and the athenians would not forget what had happened but suspended their "bad memories" and let ill-feeling go. It wasn't so much a matter, if we look closely, of memory and forgetfulness as much as knowing how to select the moments of their exercise. Removals/Clsore Why is it so difficult to talk of amnesty in Italy today? Why does the italian political class, so many years after the years of lead, continue to live in a state of ill-feeling, mnesikakein? What prevents the country from freeing itself of its "bad memories"? The reasons for this uneasiness are complex, but I believe one can risk an answer. The italian political class, with just a couple of exceptions, has never admitted that in Italy there was something akin to a civil war, nor conceded that the conflict of the years of lead had a genuinely political character. Thus the crimes committed during those years were, and remain, common law crimes. This thesis, clearly arguable on a historical level, would nevertheless be legitimate if it wasn't refuted by an obvious contradiction. Because in order to clamp down on these common criminal offenses, this same political class took recourse to a series of of exceptional laws which severely limited constitutional freedoms and introduced principles into the legal order which had always been considered extraneous to it. Almost all those convicted were investigated and tried on the basis of these special laws. But the most incredible thing is that these laws are still in application and throw a sinister cloud over the life of our democratic institutions. We live in a country which claims to be "normal", yet in which anyone who has a friend stay in their own home without declaring their presence to the police risks serious criminal punishment. The veiled state of exception in which this country has been living for nearly twenty years has so deeply corrupted the civil consciousness of the italian people, that, instead of protesting and resisting, they would rather depend upon the police's inertia and their neighbors pact of silence. It seems fair to recall - without claiming anything other than a formal analogy - that the Verordnung zum Schutz von Volk und Staat, issued by the german government on the 28 february 1933, which suspended those articles of the german constitution concerning personal freedom, freedom of assembly, inviolability of the home, and the privacy of postal correspondence and telephone conversations, it remained in application until the end of the Third Reich, that is thirteen years; our emergency laws and related police powers have far surpassed this duration. Ill-feeling No surprise then that our political class cannot think of amnesty, cannot set aside its own "bad memories". It is condemned to ill-feeling, because in Italy the exception has truly become the rule, normal country and exceptional country, past history and current reality have become indistinguishable. As a consequence, that which ought to be the subject of memory and historical investigation, are treated as a current political problem (authorizing the maintenance of special legislation and the emergency culture) and that which ought to be object of a political decision (amnesty) is instead treated like a problem of historical memory. The incapacity to think that seems to afflict the italian political class and, with it, the whole country, also depends on this malign conjunction of wicked forgetfulness and wicked memory, such that they seek to forget when they should remember and are forced to remember when they should know how to forget. In any case, amnesty and the repeal of special legislation are two sides of a single reality and can only be considered together. But in order to do this it will be necessary for Italians learn once again how to use memory and forgetting well.
Bobby Sands died 24 years ago today, just after 1.00 in the morning. His death sparked riots in numerous cities, not only in ireland where it was literally a matter of minutes after the announcement of his death that the seats were in flames. Whilst the trade unions did nothing, a call was made for a strike which turned into an armed strike in some areas. In Bray, young people visited shopping centres and ordered them to close or they would be burnt. In my school, a bastion of the dublin middle class, there was fighting between students, divided over the hunger strikes, many wearing black armbands. 100,000 people attended the funeral in belfast. In the next months another 9 hunger strikers went to their deaths, fighting the policy of criminalization introduced on March 1st 1976. It is difficult now to convey the power of these events at the time. The irish republic has officially been in state of emergency since the 1970s (remaining so today notwithstanding the ceasefire, pacification process etc). Today scepticism has the upper hand in my relationship with this unique culture and ideology which nonetheless defined radical secular politcs, a social republican vision and a popular working class base. But there are places where the heart remains after the mind moves on. And the hate for thatcher, whom will cheat millions of people should she die of natural causes, is kept sharp ;-) The following is a report from the republican weekly AP/RN published the week after the funeral. The Funeral of Bobby Sands AP/RN 9th May 1981 The body of IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands was bought to his Twinbrook home in Belfast on Tuesday evening when a steady stream of thousands of mourners filed past his open coffin which was alternatively flanked by guards of honour from Oglaigh na hEireann, Na Fianna Eireann and Cumman na mBan. Bobby’s seven-year-old son, Gerald, was brought to the Sands family for a sad reunion with his grandparents. It had been over two years since they or Bobby had last seen him. On Wednesday night, Bobby’s remains were flanked by six uniformed IRA Volunteers and an officer who marched alongside the coffin on the short journey to St Luke’s chapel. On Thursday, the day of the funeral, over fifty thousands people marched in pouring rain from St Luke’s chapel, after requiem mass, to the republican plot in Milltown cemetery. St Luke’s was thronged and the congregation were uneasy when the parish priest, Fr Mullan, delivered a sermon on violence despite a consensus that the politic of the Ira had stopped at the church door with the removal of the tricolour from the coffin and the dismissing of the guard of honour, so the politics of the church could, for the sake of harmony, have been foregone. But not so. Every time Fr Mullan spoke about peace an old man in a front pew echoed emphasis on a “just peace.” Funeral Around two o’clock the funeral set out for the four mile journey to the cemetery and most of the time the sea of people resembled Tehran scenes from the Iranian revolution. The Iranian charge d’affaires in London, Abdolrahim Gavhahi, had been assigned by his government to attend the funeral but because of flight difficulties he arrived in Belfast two hours late. A telegram to the Republican press centre from Tehran’s municipality announced that “a street on the western side of the British Embassy building in Tehran was renamed after Bobby Sands” to “honour the heroic death of the IRA freedom fighter.” Men, women and youths wept as the funeral went by. People blessed themselves with the sign of the cross and some old men gave a military salute to the republican martyr. At Suffolk the procession turned up and round into Lenadoon to avoid the small Protestant enclave opposite Woodburn barracks. A piper played one of the H-Block songs, the words of which are: “But I’ll wear no convict’s uniform, Nor meekly serve my time, That Britain might call Ireland’s fight Eight hundred years of crime” The funeral stopped close to the Busy Bee shopping centre and Bobby’s coffin was removed from the hearse and placed on tressles. Then, from among the people emerged three IRA Volunteers armed with rifles who were called to attention in Gaelic by a fourth uniformed man. They delivered three sharp vollies over the coffin, removed their berets and bowed their heads in silence for a full minute. The impressive trbute captured the hearts of the huge numbers of people on the road and was eagerly filmed by the world media. Cemetery At the gates of Milltown cemetery those assembled on the pavement spontaneously burst out into a recitation of the rosary as the hearse, the guard of honour and the funeral cars carrying Mr and Mrs Sands, their daughter Marcella and son John and others of the family, slowly passed through. Gerry Adams officiated at the graveside ceremony which began with the playing of the Last Post. The tricolour was then removed from the coffin and along with beret and gloves presented to Mrs Sands. The coffin was finally carried to the grave by the uniformed Volunteers who had been the guard of honour. It was lowered into the grave and a number of priests athen led the prayers. Mr Sands and Bobby’s younger brother John spaded some soil on to the coffin and then little Gerald was brought forward and given a hand with the heavy spade so that he too could help bury his murdered father. Among the hundreds of wreaths were one from the GHQ Staff IRA, Belfast Brigade IRA, Cumman na mBan, Na Fianna Eireann, Sinn Fein, the Republican POWs in the H-Blocks and Armagh, and the families of the remaining three hunger strikers. Oration The oration was given by Fermanagh republican, Owen Carron, who was Bobby Sands’ election agent. He was given roaring applause when he said that armed struggle was the only way forward. A chairde, a muintir na hEireann, is mor an bhron ata orainn go lear an la inniu is muid inor seasamh ag an uaigh seo. Maraiodh Bobby sands ag na Sasanagh. Irishmen and women, it is hard to describe the sadness and sorrow in our hearts today as we stand at the grave of Volunteer Bobby Sands, cruelly murdered by the British government in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. Four weeks ago to this very day, the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, on behalf of the whole Irish nation, elected Bobby Sands as their MP, and I was very happy to accept victory on his behalf. Many people had high hops of saving Bobby's life and little did I think that in one short month we would all be standing at his graveside. Bobby has gone to join the ranks of Ireland's patriotic dead. I have no doubt that the name of Bobby sands will mark a watershed in Irish history and will be a turning point in the struggle for Irish freedom. Bobby Sands as the bravest man I ever met. He faced death calmly and with confidence. Indeed, Bobby Sands is a hero and I would like first of all to express on behalf of the Republican Movement our sincere sympathy to his family and to pay tribute to them for standing by him courageously to the end. Someone once said it is hard to be a hero's mother and nobody knows that better than Mrs. Sands who watched her son being daily crucified and tortured for sixty-six long days and eventually killed. Mrs. Sands epitomises the Irish mothers who in every generation watched their children go out to fight and die for freedom. Despite the vilifications and slanders of some guttersniper media and despite the hypocrisy of scribes and pharisees of high churchmen and establishment politicians who condemned him, Bobby Sands will be remembered by freedom loving people throughout the world as freedom fighter out the world as a freedom fighter and a political prisoner hungering for justice. As he wrote himself: "Of course I can be murdered, but I remain what I am, a political POW and no-one (not even the British) can change that." Visits I never knew Bobby Sands until March 31st, 1981, which was also the thirty first day of his hunger strike. Added together all my visits were but a few short hours, but still I believe that I got to know his heart and mind. Bobby was just my own age with many hopes and ambitions to fulfill. Although he left school and an early age, it was obvious that he was an intelligent person, who through a process of self-education had advanced his learning. He became fluent in the Gaelic language and was enthusiastic about his native culture. His determination and resolve were remarkable and his commitment and dedication total and without compromise. Always evident was his sincerity and compassion despite his own situation. Even his enemies would agree there was no hatred in him. Bobby Sands was a very ordinary young man from this city, who through a process of events, became politically educated and at eighteen decided he no longer would accept the injustice of a partitioned Ireland with all its inherent evils. No longer could he accept second class citizenship in his own country. So he joined the IRA and embarked on a life of hardship and suffering and in the end made the supreme sacrifice of his life for the cause he believed in. Died Bobby Sands, as representative of the blanket men and women in Armagh, died rather than be branded a criminal. The hungerstrike was embarked on for five just and reasonable demands, (to give testimony to the world that Irish republican prisoners will never wear British prison uniforms or do prison work and must have right to associate with each other and communicate with their families and have remission restored). The callous intransigence of the British government has made the hungerstrike a symbol of the struggle for freedom and Bobby Sands and his comrades are symbols of Irish resistance to British rule in Ireland. Bobby Sands is a symbol of hope for the unemployed, for the poor and oppressed, for the homeless, for those divided by partition, for those trying to unite our people. He symbolises a new beginning and I recall the words of his manifesto to the Protestant people: "The Protestant people have nothing to fear from me." They too have their part to play in building a new future, a new Ireland. We have the moral right to struggle for freedom and self-determination. Britain has no right in our country and has no faith in her pretence because the moral right she pretends to have has to be backed up by a monstrous war machine of guns and tanks and the torture chambers of Castlereagh and the H-Blocks and by creation of division within the Irish people. Symbolises Bobby Sands has not died in vain. his hungerstrike and the sacrifice of his life is a cameo of the entire resistance movement. He symbolises the true Irish nation which never has surrendered and never will. Let us picture him lying all alone in his cell, hisbody tortured and twisted in pain, surrounded by his enemies and isolated from his comrades and nothing to fight with but his will and determination. The big British murder machine assisted by those in high places in church and state tried to break his spirit. There was those in power in Dublin who could have saved him but as Liam Mellows said in 1922: "Men will get into positions and hold power and will desire to remain undisturbed." "They tried to compromised Bobby Sands, they tried to compromise his supporters, but they failed. Around the world Bobby Sands has humiliated the British government. In Bobby Sands' death they have sown the seeds of their of destruction. Bobby once wrote about Britain that "her actions will eventually seal the fate of her rule in Ireland for they may hold our bodies, but while our minds are free victory is assured." They people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone stood by the prisoners and gave them a mandate for political status. This has been rejected by the arrogant British government. We, the people who supported Bobby Sands and the blanket men and women of Armagh and who have tried everything to get the British to give the five demands, that though we have not got the tanks and guns (and please God this will no always be so) we can only conclude, along with PH Pearse that we must take what they will not give and that there is no way in which freedom can be obtained, and when obtained, maintained, except by armed men. Inspiration Finally, I salute you, Bobby Sands. Yours has been a tough and lonely battle but you have been victorious. Your courage and bravery has been an inspiration to us all and today we take strength from your example. The courage of your family has been an inspiration to us. You have the consolation of knowing that your son died, with all of you assembled at his death bed, free in conscience and now free from the hardships of the H-Blocks. Bobby Sands, your sacrifice will not be in vain. We re-dedicate ourselves and our struggle and pledge ourselves not only to win the five demands but to drive England out of our country once and for all Bua do Shaighduiri Arm Phoblacht na hEireann!_________________A revolutionist who surrenders the initiative to the enemy is already defeated before a blow is struck. -James Connolly, Workers Republic, 4 Dec 1914
The review of Balestrini's novels has now been updated. Although still in note form I intend to continue adding information about the period and clean the whole piece up, eventually. Comments and questions that can help me do that are especially welcome. I've just started Balestrini's account of the Ultras (hardcore football supporters) of AC Milan, "I Furiosi" (The Fanatics). Soccer constitutes one of the central axis of modern Italian life and Rome is the site of a particularly intense local rivalry between Lazio, who drawe mopst of their support from the rural area outside the city and a couple of middle class areas in Rome itself. Roma, who were born in the working class district of Testaccio, monopolise the sympathy of urban residents. Once upon a time there was also an important political distinction between the two sides. Lazio have a notorious right-wing following; the most entrenched section of their supporters -- the Irridicuibili -- are unapologetic fascists. In recent years they have been supplemented by newer and more aggresive formations such as the Banda Noantri. Club officials are quick to distance themselves from this aggresive stance but do nothing to curb the enthusiasms of fascist soccer-players such as Di Canio who is currently under investigation for having made a dascist salute (saluto romano) towards the terraces after scoring a goal. Perhaps because of Lazio's well established identity, Roma was previously considered to have a leftist terrace, and the major organised Ultra group was the CUCS (Commando Ultra Curva Sud) which contained individuals from Autonomia Operaia and cultivated a leftist culture. Some yeard ago the CUCS lost their supremacy on the terrace at knifepoint and to the degree to which politics is prsent today Rome is also on the far-right. Interestingly this stadium iconography of celtic crosses, swastikas etc has not materialized into political movement in the city more generally, nor has it emerged as an active threat to leftist spaces. As I've written elsewhere this has provoked a bad-tempered discuission between sport-hating intellectuals and football fans with regard to the relevance of organising within the stadiums. Livorno (or Livornograd as it is known, birthplace of the communist party where every second male seems to be called "Yuri" or "Vladimir", not the ost italian of onames ;)) established a fgirst front within Serie A this year. Their dominant supporters organisation is called the "Livorno Autonomist Brigade" (BAL) and angages in heavy communist iconography, to the point of being, or appearing, almost Soviet. But Livorno have become a point of reference for people countrywide concerned at reactionary hegemony in the stadiums. Livorno and Lazio played last week in the Olympic Stadium in Rome and there was no doubt about the political signifcance of the occasion. Lazio won 3-1, but the day will be rememebered more for the abuse suffered by the Livorno fans who were arrested on masse after making a protest on their way home: they were arrested, abused and beaten. More than 250 of them have been banned from entering any stadium in Italy for the next five years (the so-called "diffida") a status already accorded to nearly three hundred Livorno fans. The teams perfomance in their first year in Serie A provides consolation for this drubbing at the hands of criminal justice, as they are currently in 10th position in the league and safely out of danger of relegation. Other teams with a strong leftist folloowing include: Ascoli, Chievo, Fiorentina, Genoa, Pisa, Ternana, Torino, Viareggio and Messina. Supporters attempting to transform the terraces into spaces of left/libertarian political mobilization are cliustered around the group Resistenza Ultra.
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