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from some interview: "the separation of our lives and the public and private and the splitting of ourselves in the public and the private, is something that drains our power in a way. It delimits what we consider political and therefore what we can change collectively in our lives. The reason, at least I understand it from the us-feminist movements of the 70s especially, for that we consider the personal political, is because we want to say that these are relations that are social and open for collective transformation. If they are considered private, what it seems to me that designation does is to limit the collective political activity we can exert over them. In other words for me then, what the potential for liberation is that it opens up for political action; it opens up as a political issue and therefore as an object of our political activity. We don't in a way limit our scope of our politics. In other words, sexual relationships, relationships of intimacy, relationships between men and women, between men and men, between women and women - all of these are political and social relationships." "we're not particularly original with this thesis that the dominant paradigm of work is no longer the factory in the dominant countries. That's a fact which is more or less obvious to everyone. This doesn't mean, of course, that factory production no longer exists - it still exists in the dominant countries, it still exists in subordinated countries. What it means though, we have to reconceive what production means and what forms of labor are. One of our efforts has been to reconceptualize what's mean by labor, in a way broaden what the concept covers. There are two sources of inspiration or knowledge for this. One is, especially US or anglo feminist theory >from the 70s, trying to rethink questions of reproduction starting from domestic labor and thinking of how to conceive forms of labor that are not included in the wage system. one of the positive aspects of their efforts was broadening what is recognized as labor or production. The other is Deleuze/Guaratti and various theorists around them trying to think of explaining the concept of production for instance in their discussion of desiring production. It's another way of broaden the notion of labor and production." "end of the distinction between production and reproduction. It was not quite conceived as such but it was at least for me put on the agenda by US socialist feminist theory in the 70s because precisely that distinction between production and reproduction was used as a political weapon in a way against the kinds of work that was coded as reproductive. Anyway,, the ways in which the dominant forms of production have changed allow us today to recognize that perhaps never was this distinction sustainable. That's the way we're trying to think it now. This is also in a way the content of our notion of biopolitical production. It's not production of goods, or even goods and services but ultimately production of society itself. Production of subjectivities is also, and even fundamentally, what is going on. This requires an explanation of what we mean by immaterial labor. In the way we like to characterize the shift in global capitalist economy, beginning maybe from the 1970s - it's always difficult to date these things - is that there is now a hegemony of what we call immaterial labor. This doesn't mean of course that all labor is immaterial neither does it mean that the labor itself is immaterial. The term is supposed to grasp that the product of labor is immaterial in some sense meaning that in contrast, for instance, to the labor that produces a good such as a car or a television, this is labor that produces either knowledge or an affect. And these things are in that sense immaterial. Affect of production is an excellent example because obviously affect is all about the body. We're not merely talking about something incorporeal - it's eminently corporeal but the product is something immaterial. In this respect, because this kind of labor has achieved a hegemonic position in the economy meaning that it has the position of the highest productional value, it makes clear the unsustainability of such previous distinctions. The two most challenging ones are, like I said before, the distinction between production and reproduction which from the perspective of immaterial labor makes less and less sense; and the other is the distinction between labor time and the time of life. I mean, one is never not working if one considers production itself as the production of subjectivities." "when you take the variety of kinds of paid labor that involve affective labor, think of it from health care workers which are in a variety of scales: of course health care workers they're actually doing material work, too; but they also produce affect [...] nother example would be flight attendants who are also doing some sort of material work although a large part of their work is a production of affect. Once we start thinking of the production of affect, for me it's easy to move from that to production of subjectivity. What's important about this, too, is we recognize the production of subjectivity not as the metaphysical instance in the sense of it being done prior to us. Once we realize our active involvement in the production of our collective subjectivities then we can take the power of changing it and on acting on it. It seems to me in this sense at least that the production of subjectivity is a very "everyday act"." "nother example would be flight attendants who are also doing some sort of material work although a large part of their work is a production of affect. Once we start thinking of the production of affect, for me it's easy to move from that to production of subjectivity. What's important about this, too, is we recognize the production of subjectivity not as the metaphysical instance in the sense of it being done prior to us. Once we realize our active involvement in the production of our collective subjectivities then we can take the power of changing it and on acting on it. It seems to me in this sense at least that the production of subjectivity is a very "everyday act". "in previous periods, it could have seemed that production of goods was the object of capitalist production whereas increasingly now the biopolitical dimension is recognized more prominently." "One of the things that's so useful about the term subversion is the recognition of our already being implicated in forms of power. Subversion only happens from the inside. Sabotage too. You can start from Judith Buttler's notion of subversion in a sense of reperforming the norm but differently. So we're always already implicated in a certain performance of a normalizing social space but if we introduce difference into it, that's in a way a subversion of the norm." from Common Property " We developed our conception of affective labor from a series of studies by socialist feminists, mostly written in the 1980s, that tried to understand what has traditionally been designated as women‘s work with concepts like labor in the bodily mode, caring labor, kin work, and maternal work. One aspect common to these various studies was the effort to undo the conventional mind / body division – and particularly its correlate in the field of labor, intellectual versus manual – because it was an obstacle to accounting for what „women‘s work“ actually consists of. The concept of affective labor and immaterial labor as a whole thus is intended as an extension of this project to think labor outside the mind / body division. [...]n addition to challenging the mind body division, these and other socialist feminist studies of women‘s work also intended to challenge the economic division between production and reproduction. This project too is intrinsic to the concept of immaterial labor. In the context of communication and even more so in the context of the production of affects, the distinction between production and reproduction breaks down completely, because what is involved here is the production of social relationships and at the most general level the production of social life itself. These products are not objects that are created once and for all, but rather they are produced and reproduced in a constant stream of activity. The production and reproduction of social life – biopolitical production, the continuous production of the life of the polis – is from this perspective the most general activity and the highest scope of labor." "Aren‘t we distorting traditional communal activities by forcing them into the category of labor? My response to such objections is that indeed none of these activities are intrinsically labor – and in fact no activity is. The definition of labor is the object of struggles and what counts as labor today is the result of previous struggles. Capital seeks to define labor as any activity that directly produces economic value. Labor, from this perspective, must be read backwards in the production process: labor is what produces capital and all those activities that do not produce capital are not labor. It is important from the standpoint of capital, as I said before, that certain activities are coded as labor because labor is necessary to ground the right of property" "Here, I should note, we encounter another meaning of the term biopolitical production: all life activity is potentially today coded as labor and thus all of life is potentially under the control of capital. In fact, the progression toward all life activity becoming labor is advancing hand in hand with that toward all elements of life becoming private property. This might be called too the real subsumption of life under capital." "immaterial labor, and especially its affective component, challenges the traditional divisions between mind and body, posing instead a continuous interchange between the intellectual and the corporeal. This is where one should develop a theory of the productive flesh, since flesh is the name for that matter that is at once and indistinctly both intellectual and corporeal, subjective and objective. This is a flesh that produces and creates. In the second place, in the realm of biopolitical production, our practices, our performances, and our labor are constantly constituting all aspect of social life: norms, relationships, institutions, and so forth. Not only sex but all of life is produced and producible – and this is where one should develop a notion of monstrosity because the infinite producibility, transformability, mutability of life is the stuff of monsters, beautiful monsters and horrible monsters too. [...] The scene of biopolitical production is a stage on which the struggle for liberation has to be played out." "This new realm of production and this new producibility of life is reflected in the new forms of property that are emerging today. Corresponding to the newly central role of immaterial labor is a similarly central role of immaterial forms of property. This correspondence is no coincidence, I will argue, because the capitalist legitimation of private property has always been grounded on labor such that a shift in the forms of labor makes possible and necessary new forms of property. In particular, biopolitical production makes it possible that life itself can become private property." " My question, in other words, is not really can the security of the private immaterial property be defended against illegal threats – and indeed I assume that despite significant difficulties it can – but rather can the legitimacy of the private ownership of immaterial products be maintained? Force is secondary in the establishment and maintenance of capitalist relations of property; the logic of legitimation is its primary support." "arguments of social utility are very persuasive and carry great political value, but they too have little power within the capitalist legal framework. U.S. patent law does in fact state that „the promotion and progress of science and the useful arts is the main object of the patent system, and reward of inventors is secondary and merely a means to that end,“ but that does not mean that patents will be decided on that basis. Neither patents nor copyrights are awarded or denied on the basis of arguments of promoting the progress of science or social utility." "The knowledges that neem seeds can function as a safe pesticide and that turmeric as a healing agent were produced by hosts of agents that form a chain stretching over a long historical period. To credit as inventor the final individual to enter into this chain would be a great distortion of the process that produced the knowledge. Alternatively, apportioning accurate relative contributions to all the individuals involved would require an impossible calculation. In other words, legitimate property rights must involve an adequate representation of the production process but that representation here is thrown into crisis." "I do not think that this calculation difficulty and representation crisis of the labor logic of property is isolated to the knowledge production of traditional communities. I think rather that it is a general condition that affects all immaterial labor. First of all, in the realm of science this individual labor logic is based on a false representation of scientific practice. Scientific ideas are produced collaboratively, not only within each laboratory but in the scientific community at large. Think of attacking a scientific problem like adding weights that accumulated in a pile on one side of a scale. The work of each scientist adds a small weight and at some point the balance will tip. Crediting the solution to the individual who added the final piece is a very inadequate representation of the process as a whole. The only accurate representation would be that all the scientists who worked on it produced the solution collectively." " The same is true for the production of ideas, knowledges, and information in general. No one thinks alone; rather we all participate in a general social intellect. Consider, for example, the hypothetical case of an idea for an advertisement with a hip-hop musical theme. Imagine that the ad employee got the musical idea from a band he or she heard the night before and that band in turn developed its music out of a street vernacular. Who produced the idea? The individual attribution of ideas smacks of a false notion of genius. Originality is highly overrated. Thought is really produced socially, collectively. Finally, I would argue that all forms of immaterial labor are necessarily collective and social. Communication is an immediately cooperative, relational mode of activity. The production of affects too works through what is common."
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.
If I were more conversant in Deleuze and Kierkegaard, I would try and argue that I am not being redundant, but rather enacting repetition as philosophical category. No can do, though. Instead I'm just going to hammer away repetively at this biopolitics thing and recognize that it is repetitive (though I do have a hope that it will work out good-repetitive, a la the Ramones, and not bad repetitive a la waged work). I mispoke when I said H/N think biopolitical/immaterial labor is new: "The argument, let me repeat, is not that immaterial labor did not exist before but rather that it has recently been accorded the dominant position in the economy and that such dominance has a series of important effects." (In Hardt, Common Property) That's almost weirder, though, because it means that the idea is that the hegemony of immaterial labor creates all this new human potential. Now, it could be that the hegemony of immaterial labor -- the hegemony of the sector/type of labor that bears the multitude-capacity -- means that now there is a chance that multitude can exist without getting killed off (an argument about contingent historical circumstances of power, conflict, and survivability). That kind of makes sense to me, but when I've tried to ask Hardt this he didn't like that idea (or else I wasn't able to pose the question clearly). The alternative, to say that there is some sort of new possibility for humanity opened up -- a sharing of the multitude-capacity, analogous to the party sharing it's revolutionary consciousness -- seems to me predicated on an idea of the working class as not itself a set/site of antagonisms and conflicts. That is, it seems to me to imply that there's this new capacity which needs to be handed out -- a problem of distribution -- rather than seeing a set of conflicting organizational and political etc goals in competition. (Reminds me of this Ranciere quote that I found,it's in the translator's intro to Night of Labor: "It is always in the heart of the worker aristocracy that a hegemonic fraction forms, presenting itself as THE proletariat and affirming the proletarian capacity to organize anohter social order, starting with the skills and values formed in its work and its struggle." [Ranciere, "Les maillon de la chaine (proletaires et dictatures)",Les Revoltes Logiques #2, Spring-Summer 1976, 5.] I took it to mean 'when someone expresses an essence of labor they are probably speaking on behalf of a labor aristocracy and universalizing one quality of the aristocracy in order to hide conflicts and power plays'.) On a related note, Brad Evans sent me a Foucault quote he found -- 'a question session On the geneology of ethics' reads as follows "q - isnt it logical, given these concerns, that you should be writing a geneology of bio-power? MF - I have no time for that now but, it could be done. in fact I have to do it!"' See also the text on the genealogies of biopolitics conference...
shoot for the head Yes, I should be doing other things (and Nate's suggestion for more specific research on biopolitics is a good point) but thought instead I'd take a short zombieshuffle down Theory Street instead -- zombie flics being excellent ways to pass the time thinking about the body, biopolitics, mass and movement -- not to mention gender, racism, sexuality and 'community', eg: Chopper Chicks in Zombietown. Mark Fisher (k-punk) on use-value and zombification: "For a chilling image of how SF Capital induces auto-zombification in the master class, you only have to look at the face of our glorious leader [Blair]: that ashen carnival mask, its grim, cheerless Joker-grin flashing with ritual efficiency, its blank eyes illuminated by empty evangelism, darkened by perpetual irritation - the PM's being run by Videodrome ... and no-one owns Death TV." Eugene Thacker on biopolitics and zombie flics: "One always makes an exception for 'life.' Is there any other way? In this regard biopolitics is precisely the articulation of 'life' as an exception. There is no better cultural expression of this than the films, novels, and games that constitute the 'zombie-epidemic' genre. Having gained a great deal of popularity recently with films such as 28 Days Later, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the slapstick Shaun of the Dead, and an un-ironic remake of Dawn of the Dead, the genre has also expanded into comics (Criminal Macabre) and video games (the Resident Evil franchise). But the figure of the zombie – the living dead, the mass of living corpses that are only bodies, that are only bare life – is much older than this. [And so on] Two very different approaches in the above, but interesting nevertheless. And not quite zombie, but close: Terri Schiavo: Bride of 'Compassionate Conservatism'.
yet another in the continuing series of 'I should get the Marx books off the shelf again' moments for me ... I got in touch with Sabrina Ovan, who gave a paper (the abstract for which is online) on the novel Q and the general intellect at the Italian effect conference in Oz a while back. Sabrina sent me her paper. Very interesting. It's about the novel narrating general intellect, or enacting a moment of general intellect. Reading the paper a question struck me about general intellect, a question that now seems obvious, parallel to the questions I keep having about multitude -- is the category a category of philosophical anthropology/ontology (ie, a metahistorical or trans-historical category) or is the category a historical one, one for analysis of class composition (either political or technical)? The whole thing about biopolitics and labor that I've been thinking about with Angela parallels this question. I've said this before, but it strikes me that Hardt/Negri argue for a becoming-biopolitical of labor. This becoming is what makes multitude as a form of political life (subjectivity/organization) possible. They argue for this becoming-biopolitical on the grounds that labor is now affective etc. I'm not convinced. Here's my argument, roughly. Virno says in an interview that "the biopolitical is only an effect derived from the concept of labor-power". That seems silly. If we stand that on its head, though, we get what I take to be the most important part of the matter: "When there is a commodity that is called labor-power it is already implicitly government over life (...) because labor power is a paradoxical commodity,(it) is simply the potential to produce. As soon as this potential is transformed into a commodity, then, it is necessary to govern the living body that maintains this potential, that contains this potential." That is, labor power is biopolitical as such. To quote Panzieri on machinery "Capitalist 'planning' presupposes the planning of living labour". (And I think Panzieri is right when he says that planning is at the heart of capital. I would say, though he doesn't in these exact terms, that the planning of living labor is central to what capital is as a social relation.) A similar point is made by Federici's excellent book Caliban and the Witch -- primitive accumulation was a war on women, a biopolitical operation required for the creation of the commodity labor power. It seems to me that one can only say "now labor is biopolitical" by ignoring all of the above, which means effacing important histories and at least implicitly siding with the wrong side in many an opposition to historical movements. It also seems to me that it simply can not be the case that "now labor is biopolitical so now multitude is possible". To my mind, I think this can be cashed out one of two ways. One is to say that the capacity to be multitude (defined roughly as something like the capacity for autonomous production of social life in a fashion not determined by 'objective conditions', or as the ability to create political community not determined by/in the form of the state)has always existed in the biopolitical moments of social life, under capital and otherwise. So multitude is not new -- new idea, maybe, but not a new possibility. (Of course, it's historically specific, so 'multitude' now is different from 'multitude' at another point in time, but that's trivially true -- the same could be said of 'literature' or 'music' or any other term.) The other possibility is that the capacity to be multitude is not rooted in the biopolitical. If this is so then I think the whole matter turns into an analogue of one of the problems of Leninism: one sector (immaterial laborers/the party) has a certain capacity (produce itself as multitude/revolutionary agency) that other sectors don't have because they are limited somehow by the arrangement of production (the non-multitude/the 'masses' with their inability to get beyond trade union consciousness). The questions for this position would be as follows -- 1. how does the sector with the something special have the special capacity that it has? Why can it do what it can do, while the rest can not? This is a theoretical question. 2. How does this special sector relate to the rest? How does it put its special capacity in the service of the rest? This is an organizational/strategic question. I don't like this latter formulation of things, the multitude-as-vanguard or product of the vanguard, for political reasons as much as for theoretical onces. But, if there was a convincing argument made I would (by definition) be convinced. In the absence of such an argument, though, I'm going to go with the former formulation, the 'not so new after all' viewpoint. Not that there aren't new phenomena and new possibilities. (Every moment is unique, noveltly per se is not novel. The question is what is new that matters...) Rather, the newness is not one of "now labor is biopolitical" and "now multitude becomes possible". The newness is one that should be investigated, the situations or subjectifications or class compositions of the present and the political possibilities (in organizational terms) of the present. This was a long detour away from general intellect. Briefly, back on that -- there's a question in reading _Q_. Do we see general intellect as part of the framework of narration -- part of the story -- or do we see general intellect in the world that the story narrates? That is, does _Q_ embody/enact general intellect as part of the present, doing so in a way to tell a story about 16th century Germany -- a world without general intellct -- or does _Q_ tell a story in which we see that there is general intellect in the 16th century? (Again, general intellect is historical specific, like everything else, but that's not very interesting as a simple observation. This also leaves aside the general-intellect-as-literary-device thing, which I can't really do justice to.) If the latter, then this runs the same set of operations that were run above re: biopolitics/multitude, I think. That would mean that general intellect is also not new, and that one can not make claims for philosophical/historical novelty in order to say "now a new politics is possible". To try and put it as simply as I can, if there was general intellect in Muntzer day then it does not make sense to say that _now_ general intellect is important in production, and it does not make sense to say that _now_ there are brand new precedent-free political possibilities. (I think what is happening to me is a repetion of the Rorty maneuver that I was once very impressed with, that helped me stop feeling the need to obsessively read Hegel -- what I take to be the attempt to say "let's not use so many capital letters, let's think and write in lower case, maybe we can do that".) So maybe then the question is not "now that there is general intellect, biopolitics, multitude, what can be done?" but rather "what is the general intellect, biopolitics, multitude today, and what can it do?" If so, I think a corrollary is moving from reading/'doing' theory toward matters of militant research, and not just theorizing about it. It may be that all of this is just an elaborate justification that marches alongside the gradual shifts in my interests, but if so that's okay. Another project, then, is how to actually _do_ some of figuring out 'what is the body today' and 'what can it do', and not simply at a theoretical level. This inquiry work is daunting, though, as I don't know how to do it or where to start.
A couple of months ago a friend gave me a couple of CDs as I was leaving Ireland. The first was Sean Nos by Sinead O'Connor and it's extraordinary breathing fire into tracks which could run the risk of cliches familiarity, like "Oro Se do Bheath' Abhaile" about pirate queen Grace O'Malley. The other gem is an live album by an outfit called Mozaik, which involves Andy Irvine and some string musicians from Bulgaria and the Balkans. Lovers of Irish trad will be simply blown away by the opening track "The Blacksmith", but the real treat lies tucked inside at track 7: "Pony Boy/Never Tire of the Road"". I caught the word fascist in one of the verses but couldn't quite make out the context. Then I listened to the whole song more closely. The final verse goes like this: "Don't let them ever fool you Or take you by surprise That dirty smell of a politician And the man with the greed in his eyes One big union, that's our plan And the IWW"s your only man The flames of discontent we'll fan For the cause that never dies." Fuck me! I yelped, it's a Wobbly tune, and a great one, played bluegrass style. My assumption was that it was from the IWW songbook or composed by Guthrie. Nope. The song was written by Andy Irvine, whom according to an interview I've just read, is himself a member of the IWW. To put this into context Irvine is key, if not central, to the group that revolutionized trad, Planxty, whom I adore and saw at Christmas (I even brought my father). Of course there are a lot of Irish connections to the Wobs. Big Bill Haywood spoke in Ireland and was a friend of pioneering 'Misfit' Jack Whyte (anarchist gun runner/renegade born of a loyalist family); James Connolly on the other hand was an organizer for the IWW when he was in the US. Here's the song. Never Tire of the Road Never tire of the rolling wheel Never tire of the ways of the world Way out yonder is a-calling me And the dark road leads me onwards And the highway, that's my code And the lonesome voice that I heard said Never tire of the road I was just a small town country boy When I left that country town Route 66 to the Westward And hopped an old freight down California here I come By the side door Pullman and the sunburnt thumb And they called us Okies, lowdown bums And the police on us frowned California to the New York Island Me and my guitar And we played in many a hobo jungle Many a skid row bar Standing out in the wind and the rain That lonesome whistle is a sweet refrain When you are waiting for some old freight train That carries an empty car. Shipped on board the liberty ship, To sail the ocean blue We were carrying guns, TNT, D-Day soldiers too, All the men onboard agree With Frisco, Jimmy, Ronnie and me, Our song rang out across the sea You fascists bound to lose All of you fascists bound to lose All of you fascists bound to lose All of you fascists bound to lose You're bound to lose, You fascists Bound to lose Don't let them ever fool you Or take you by surprise That dirty smell of a politician And the man with the greed in his eyes One big union, that's our plan And the IWW"s your only man The flames of discontent we'll fan For the cause that never dies
I couldn't resist filling out the Kavafis reference, because the poem is both relevant and very funny, very dry. (With thanks to Jim for the prompt.) Waiting for the Barbarians Written by Konstantinos Kavafis (anglicised: Cavafy) b. April 29, 1863 - d. same date, 1933. What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum? The barbarians are to arrive today. Why such inaction in the Senate? Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws? Because the barbarians are to arrive today. What laws can the Senators pass any more? When the barbarians come they will make the laws. Why did our emperor wake up so early, and sits at the greatest gate of the city, on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown? Because the barbarians are to arrive today. And the emperor waits to receive their chief. Indeed he has prepared to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed many titles and names of honor. Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out today in their red, embroidered togas; why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets, and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds; why are they carrying costly canes today, wonderfully carved with silver and gold? Because the barbarians are to arrive today, and such things dazzle the barbarians. Why don't the worthy orators come as always to make their speeches, to have their say? Because the barbarians are to arrive today; and they get bored with eloquence and orations. Why all of a sudden this unrest and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become). Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly, and all return to their homes, so deep in thought? Because night is here but the barbarians have not come. And some people arrived from the borders, and said that there are no longer any barbarians. And now what shall become of us without any barbarians? Those people were some kind of solution. Also: He who longs to strengthen his spirit must go beyond obedience and respect, He will continue to honor some laws but he will mostly violate both law and custom. (from Strengthening the Spirit, 1903) By the by, does anyone know the origin of the slogan, 'Foreigners, don't leave us alone with these Australians [or substitute relevant nationality here]'?
Finally got to see the rocky road to Dublin, Peter Lennon's excellent documentary from 1968 which takes a critical look at the state of Ireland 50 years after the 1916 rising. The film was beautifully shot by Raoul Coutard, the nouvelle vague DP of Truffaut and Goddard. He shot Breathless and Alphaville as well as Z and for some reason agreed to shoot rocky road after being approached by Lennon, who had never made a film before, in France where Lennon worked for the UK Guardian. The film is enjoying a new life of festival and university screenings after being restored by the film institute here in Eirsatz. Its a real time capsule and reminiscient of some of the finest 60s verite work by Marker and Goddard, quite like the vertov stuff Goddard et al did in France and the US at that time. Lennons concern in making the film was prompted by what he saw as the failure of the revolutionaries of 1916 to deliver the republic they had announced. instead 50 years later ireland was a backwater of "urban peasants" as Sean O faolain describes them in the film, intimidated and controlled by a crypto fascist clergy who dominated all aspects of life in the country. As Lennon narrates at the opening of the film "This is an attempt to reconstruct in images the plight of an island community which survived nearly 700 years of English occupation and then nearly sank under the weight of its own heroes -and clergy". This is wonderfully captured through clips of young boys in Synge street Christian brothers school listing the consequences of original sin: poverty, stupidity and death among other things. Departure from chastity resulted in even more appalling consequences, according to another 7 or 8 year old. The film spends a couple of days with Father Michael Cleary, promoted by the church at the time as a guy in touch with the young, a singing and dancing man of god who got it and provided a contrast to the the likes of Cardinal Spellman, who denounced the governement for departing from a tight American anti chinese line at the UN ultimately leaving the state in a position to the right of the pope on international matters. Cleary was already having an affair with his house keeper, a young woman who he had met while ministering in the orphanage where she was growing up, though this would not become known for three decades. By this time she had already given up their son for addoption. Like many priests of the day he had a peculiar sexual appetite for the extremely vulnerable, and a filthy mind to boot, fed no doubt by the confessions of sinning housewives racked by guilt at practicing coitus interuptus as a means of avoiding further pregnancies. One woman recounting this experience in the film is advised by her priest to move out of the bed she shared with her husband so as to avoid inflaming his evil passions. The censorship of the country is also explored with a scrolling list of the dozens of authors who had been banned up to that time though one of the most endearing characters is, ironically, the censor himself who is a sharp old codger and clearly the bishops choice for the job. At least he's aware that he is living in the past. But this is most interesting, at a time when the world is in flames, the 6 counties would explode within the year and a radical youth anti war movement was pronounced around the globe, in ireland there was nothing, seemingly nothing. Considering that among those who had led the 1916 rising were many socialists and poets it seemed that these traditions had been erased. Most of the 1916 leaders were executed leaving only the most appalling conservatives around to take the reins of power after the anglo irish war. Among those were Eamonn de Valera and Michael Collins, as well as monarchists like Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein. Both Collins and De Valera were quite antagonistic to democratic ideas and both were deeply conservative religious fanatics. So conservative was de valera that he insisted on all the men under him surrendering to the British after the '16 rising instead of, as had happened elsewhere, men being given the choice to escape particularly if they had young families. he was spared the executioners bullet by virtue of his American birth. Griffith of course refused to participate in the rising keeping Sinn Fein out of it though in popular imagination it became known as the Sinn Fein rising. most interesting, apart from the delicate balance between a rejection of the sheepish nature of the Irish public with the quite disgusting cynicism of the ruling gangs and the real affection of the film maker pronounced by Couthards beautiful photography is that the film showed at the Cannes festival in 1968. It was the last to screen before truffaut and Goddard closed the festival in sympathy with the striking workers and students, "we are talking about revolution while you are talking about tracking shots and close ups" spat Goddard at lennon. So the film was part of something much more in Cinema history that being just about the only irish film of the decade, certainly the only one with any association with the new wave. While the film screened in one cinema in Dublin for several weeks it has never been broadcast in Ireland and has recieved, even now, only derisory support from the film board. This will surprise noone who has watched anything funded by them though. While films are being made the island still has no cinema. IN '68 the film was screened in the occupied renault factory and in the Sorbonne, where louis malle described it as one of the most important 3 or 4 documents the cinema has given us. 36 years later its shown at a few screeings in COrk and then, last night, in Belfast, which feels a little like it did on the eve of the Irish war. Watching the film there i couldnt help feeling that really, particularly in the north, we havent come that far. Still the place is dominated by social conservatives with an unhealthy love of organised religion. A good number of the unionist/loyalist leaders are actually men of the cloth and among the republicans crucifixes, holy water and daily mass going are more common than not. See this film if you can, the sound track is a cracker. The dubliners with luke kelly singing.
I said I'd do a review of Elizabeth Grosz's new book, The Nick of Time, for API. Not because I've got much from her work, but because it's always seemed to me to display the worst aspects of academic labour generally, and CultStud more specifically: canonical, textboook production, position, position, position. And this is another chance to talk about the forms and limits of cognitive labour. Although, I was hoping it would be more than just this. I've been trying to come up with a way of being less dismissive, but it's difficult when someone begins by writing that "This book functions primarilly as a reminder to social, political and cultural theorists ... a rememberance of what we have forgotten. ... the nature, the ontology of the body, the conditions under which bodies are enculturated, psychologized, given identity, historical location, and agency." It's difficult to not be dismissive because I don't feel particularly interpellated by this "we" Grosz talks about. I mean who was it that 'forgot' about these things, other than Grosz? Yes, there is a minor attempt to note this, to talk about the book as a corrective of her own past work, but the form remains the same (canonical, textbookish), and the content is kind of peculiar. Like, talking about Nietzsche and Bergson as "negelected" writers? Neglected by whom? Or, worse, talking about 'race' as a given -- no historical, contingent sense of 'race', let alone much engagement with the vast amounts of materialist theories of 'race': Balibar, Guillaumin, etc. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that Grosz was (is?) such a keen anti-marxist that materialism vanished along with it. Which she feels the need, now, to remember. But the form of the rememberance continues the forgetting. And the forgetting is so ivory-toweresque that I get antsy. So, trying to write a review, I've been trying to find other reviews of The Nick of Time, of which I've found none. Well, people mention the book, reiterate the flyleaf blurb and quotes from friends, but I haven't found anyone who engages with the book itself. In other words, all I've found are markers of circulation, empty citation, where the only thing at stake is the market, niche market in this case. Though, trawling the web I did find an interview with at least one fan who carefully reflected on the terms of the specific fandom at work: "What do you dislike about Elizabeth Grosz? - I find myself recoiling from that question, because I do dislike what she does in her book production, but she does it well and I buy her books. So, at some level, I resent the fact that books like hers have a market at all, and more than that, that I am her market. What she does is, she takes *bites* on conceptual issues, and puts them into fashionable thematic categories, her books are analogous to compilation albums where music samples from old favourites make up the seed idea of each song. I can see what she is doing, dealing astutely with a readership, giving us what we all want - a position on things." The rest here.
---->> This is the appeal posted in my p2p community, both to solicit materials and generate interest in Mayday <<---- Dear all, May 1st is nearly upon us. Out of deference for what I'm sure is a plurality of political views present, I will spare you my rant, but not my petitition. The celebration dates from May 3rd 1886, when police attacked marchers for the 40 hour week killing 4. The following day an anarchist demonstration took place, at the end of which a policeman was killed by a bomb thrown at their lines. Eight people were subsequently arrested with no evidence; four were executed and one committed suicide. Irrespective of one's views on social organization this is an important date, to celebrate or loathe. This year the week of April 24-30th shall also be a boycott called by p2p unite against the media industry. Not a penny from our pocket should pass to the music and cinema industry parasites during these days. April 26th is International Intellectual Property Day sponsored by the World Intellectual Propertry Organization, a figurehead and rallying poiint historically for all those opposed to the free circulation of culture and knowledge; the monopolists, the censors, the charlatans and their enforcers. My belief is that the fight for the free circulation of digital goods is part of the struggle for a new wave of rights: to create community (sharing), to create meaning (editing), to generate enlightenment (revealing and unmasking) and to free materials that those who work in the field of culture (film, music, text, software, games) can use to earn a living (think GPL, creative commons commercial sharealike) so as to to free our creativity from the yoke of the property owners..... For all these reasons, I propose that the week before of May 1st we make an effort to post films and materials on the theme of the liberation of labour and creativity. I am preparing some rips myself and would ask other people to express their interest and suggested titles. My first rip will be: Live Nude Girls Unite (2000) which is a movie about unionization in the sex industry. loooking forward to hearing from you, blank Mayday, the real labour day European Mayday initiative P2P Boycott of Media Industry April 24-30 Autonomedia
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