jim writes:

"On Robin Kelley's Freedom Dreams"

Franklin Rosemont

"The dream too, must have its Bastille Day!" -- Nicolas Calas
Robin D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination.

Boston: Beacon Press: 2002. 248 pages. Cloth, $24.00

Few writers have done more to stimulate new ways of looking at surrealism than Robin D. G. Kelley, and the reason is simple: He himself has dared, again and again, to look at surrealism in new ways. His important and exhilarating new book, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, fully confirms his central role in the current resurgence of the surrealist movement throughout the world.

dr.woooo writes:

Empire For the Multitude?

The day that I finished Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri was also the day that I read Rob los Ricos' review, "Empire for Beginners" (Anarchy #53). Ricos' overall criticism of globalization is very relevant, but he does not see that he and the authors of Empire are often in agreement. He recounts the history contained in the book without working with the concepts, which are a very important part. Ricos claims to point out the precepts of Hardt and Negri: progressivism, Marxism, Euro-centrism, and an "enthusiasm for the arrival of this horribly dehumanizing Empire under which we live." However, none of these precepts are Hardt or Negri's.

Chuck Morse writes "

Review of Silencing Political Dissent: How Post-September 11th Anti-Terrorism Measures Threaten our Civil Liberties by Nancy Chang, The Terrorism Trap: September 11th and Beyond by Michael Parenti, and Terrorism and War by Howard Zinn. From the current issue of The New Formulation: An Anti-Authoritarian
Review of Books (February 2003, Vol. 2, No. 2). See



Paul Glavin

The State in Hyper-Drive: the Post-September 11th U.S.

Silencing Political Dissent: How Post-September 11th Anti-Terrorism Measures Threaten our Civil Liberties

By Nancy Chang

New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002

The Terrorism Trap: September 11th and Beyond

By Michael Parenti

San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2002

Terrorism and War

By Howard Zinn (edited by Anthony Arnove)

New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002


hydrarchist writes

Okay, so this is a fucking crap review, and I disown the very gesture of submitting it (?). However, the existence and beginning of this exhibition shoudl be publicised and this was the only article available. If anyone finds a better one, which should not be difficult, please submit it and a substitution will be effected. Please. Please......

Bruises, blobs and bug-eyed dogs

The Cobra artists wanted to change the world - but they just ended up making a horrible mess, says Adrian Searle

Tuesday March 4, 2003

The Guardian

There was a time when artists habitually wore berets, smoked and drank incessantly, lived the bohemian life and painted like there was no tomorrow - and no yesterday either. They rejected their immediate predecessors, invented movements, wrote splenetic manifestos and believed in such a thing as the avant-garde, a phrase that today sounds almost quaint. They thought art had a primary social function, even if they were not entirely sure what it was or how exactly their art would change the world.

Such a time, by and large, seems to have passed (though the beret has lately made of a bit of a comeback). It is, then, perhaps timely and surprising that the first proper British survey of the Cobra group, a movement founded in a Left Bank cafe in 1948 and disbanded in 1951, should take place now at the Baltic in Gateshead.

As a movement, Cobra fulfilled pretty much all the stereotypes of the 20th-century art movement - in fact, it could be the model for most of them. Cliche has it that, while postwar Paris was in the throes of existentialism, New York was roaring with abstract expressionism and British art was filling up the kitchen sink, examining the forms of the teasel and doing spiky, angular things for the Festival of Britain, the Cobra artists were colluding to overthrow Mondrian, churn up the landscape, embrace the Outsider and reject social realism. The movement was founded in Paris, but its name (properly CoBrA, though rendered otherwise in all the material relating to this exhibition) derives from three other European cities, Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam - cities of occupation in which the artists involved had lived throughout the war years.

Cobra was, in part, an amalgamation of artists disaffected from various national groupings, particularly the Surrealist-Revolutionary Centre in Belgium, the Danish Harvest Group and the Dutch Experimental Group. So many factions. It is hard to imagine such tight-knit, ideologically motivated artist groups today, when movements tend to be little more than journalistic labels (the School of London, the YBAs) or self-promotional packages (the Stuckists, heaven forbid). There was a time when such things mattered and were more than cabals of art-world career lobbyists.

The movement's founder and organiser, the Belgian poet Christian Dotremont, famously described Cobra as: "Like going on a train journey. You fall asleep, you wake up, you don't know whether you've just passed Copenhagen, Brussels or Amsterdam." If Cobra was an art in transit, it was also a transitional movement, its protagonists somehow moving between a self-conscious, individualist "primitivism" (if that is not a paradox) and a sense of a universal art that transcended language. In part, Cobra anticipated the truly revolutionary ideals of the Situationist International and the 1970s "return to painting" of the neo-expressionists. It was also an art in transit from the most appalling war to a world in which things, so the artists believed, had to be done differently.

Cobra celebrated the irrational (as had surrealism); it was wild, colourful and filled with imaginary symbols. It was an art that, as Roger Malpert says in the current catalogue, represented an antidote to melancholy. Cobra also attracted some terribly mediocre artists, whose toe-curling works hang alongside the more significant figures - Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille and Pierre Alechinsky - in the Baltic exhibition.

Visitor, brace yourself: prepare to see some utter dreck in the Cobra show. Malpert writes that Cobra works "are among the most popular and accessible of 20th-century works in the museums that house them, and reproductions serve to brighten up the corridors of hotels and office buildings". A dreadful apotheosis, this, for an art that aimed for a rather different kind of universality. I would also argue with the idea that Cobra art is "popular" in any meaningful way.

Faced with this stuff on the hotel wall or office partition, I have the feeling that people probably just feel stuck with it and soon stop noticing it at all. When you do notice it, you probably wish it were a Paul Klee or a Joan Miro, whose work Cobra often resembles in a low-rent way. Cobra's lack of class is, I suppose, meant to be democratic. Its feeble imagism - the bug-eyed dogs (Dogs? Sheep? Badly drawn bovines? It is often hard to tell), the festering suns, the blob people - are meant as utterances in a universal language that has its roots in the art of children, of the mentally unwell, in the "primitive", in tribal art or prehistoric artifacts. All of the above one now views with suspicion, whether or not one is sensitised by the more overt and occasionally ludicrous pieties of political correctness.

This is often the kind of art that leads to the invariable, but not always philistine, complaint that a child of six could do it. In fact, one spends much of one's time thrashing about in front of Cobra paintings searching for redeeming features and looking for parallels: this one is a bit like Arshile Gorky, that painting is like a Matta or a late-1940s De Kooning, there is a ghost of Dubuffet here, an early Alan Davie there, a presentiment of Georg Baselitz or AR Penke somewhere else.

What we are trying to do, perhaps, is dignify this art, when one of the good things about it is its lack of dignity, its crudeness, irreverence and rawness. Even the speed with which so much of this work was made can be seen as an antidote, if not to melancholy, then to good manners, as a way of bypassing the deliberations and niceties of style. Constant's bruise-faced woman, open-mouthed and flailing wildly, her face spookily lit, may well be a kind of revenge painting against a spurning lover.

But mostly the show is just horrible. The borrowings from Guernica-period Picasso, from Bernard Buffet or Miro (straight line, curved branch, blob - hey presto, there's a stick-man waving at you) show up the imaginative paucity of much of it.None of the Cobra artists seen here extended the language of the artists from whom they borrowed. Some of the artists shown - Corneille and Alechinsky, for example - are much milder, more careful designers than their Cobra affiliation might suggest.

Where Cobra's influence has always lingered is in the soppier, more naive regions of art-school painting (as has Wassily Kandinsky's work: both influences are equally pernicious). But it is worth reminding ourselves that the artists associated with Cobra were intelligent, often intellectual artists. Constant, for example, was a co-founder of the Situationist International (of which Jorn was also a member), and devoted much of his time, post-Cobra, to developing radical architectural ideas, before returning to painting in the 1970s.

We must be careful, too, about fashion, what it dismisses and rediscovers. What is strong and enduring in the Cobra show (apart from its idealism, which is always refreshing) are the drawings and prints. There are great drawings here - Constant's lithographs of La Guerre (Picasso-like though some of them are), Alechinsky's hilarious etchings, Jorn's scratchy, inked Burning Cities, and Pedersen's beautiful ink drawings of phantasmagorical heads and birds. Drawing always has a timeless aspect, an ability to go beyond style. It is, at best, intimate and direct. It is democratic (everyone does it, if only to doodle) and seems to tap something approaching the universal. The show is worth it, to be reminded of that alone.

· Cobra is at Baltic, Gateshead, until April 21. Details: 0191-478 1810."

Louis Proyect writes:

"Horns and Halos"

Reviewed by Louis Proyect

Co-directed by Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky and now showing at Cinema Village in NYC, "Horns and Halos" is the best documentary I have seen since "Startup.Com," with which it shares some important aspects. Both films revolve around doomed projects: in one instance, a typical dot.com that crashed and burned like so many others in the 1990's; in the other, a Quixotic mission by a small threadbare publishing house to get the troubled George W. Bush biography "Fortunate Son" to market.

hydrarchist writes

Since early 2001 theoretical debate has been dominated by Hardt and Negri's work "Empire". For many in the anglophone world this has been a first engagement with 'autonomist marxism', which nonetheless remains enigmatic when it comes to practice, represented in the imagination only by the White Overalls (now recycled as the Disobedients).

Some of the gaps in this picture are now remedied by the appearance online of the full text of George Katsiaficas's The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life. Originally published in 1997, and poorly known until after the Seattle demonstrations of 1999, the book provides a panoramic, although impressionistic, survey of European extraparliamentary politics since the 1970s. Italy's long '68, culminating in Autonomia and the movement of 1977, recieves a chapter to itself, although this influence of the theoretical practical innnovations of the Italian movement are never woven into the fabric of the book (1).

Anonymous Comrade writes "translation ; Erik erikempson@wanadoo.fr

Bible lessons: the Empire Debate

Audit after 3 years of discussion on Hardt and Negri's "Empire"

"Empire has arrived" Tocotronic announce on their latest record, the Asian
Dub Foundation brings into place the words "Exodus" against "fortress
Europe", and Johny Cash inadvertently speaks of the 'multitude'. "Empire"
is pop. The book of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri can, like no other left
wing theoretical book before it, and three years after being published, show
substantial sales and bestseller placings as well as numerous citations.

jim writes "Orwell's Victory by Christopher Hitchens (Penguin, £9.99)
Orwell in Spain edited by Peter Davison (Penguin, £9.99)

In recent years, British writer George Orwell has
joined his friends, the Italian novelist Ignazio Silone,
and American journalist Burnett Bolloten as a
politically dodgy commentator. Bolloten, who wrote
a history of the Spanish civil war critical of the
Stalinists, was supposed to have had CIA
connections, while Silone was damned because he
wrote for the journal Encounter at a time when it
was receiving secret CIA sponsorship. All three have
also been seen as friends of the libertarian left.
Christopher Hitchens, not to be confused with his
right-wing brother Peter, argues in Orwell's Victory
that the controversial list of minor 1940s celebrities
with communist sympathies which Orwell gave Celia
Kirwan, a former girlfriend and an officer of the
(MI5-sponsored) Information Research Department,
in no way "denied his credit for keeping [the]
libertarian and honest tradition alive".
Hitchens supports this by drawing attention to
Orwell's work with the Freedom Defence Committee
and his opposition to attempts to purge political
extremists from the Civil Service. The Freedom
Defence Committee was founded in 1945 to deal
with infringements of civil liberties. Orwell was its
Vice Chairman. In March 1948 Orwell wrote a letter
to George Woodcock, editor of literary journal Now
and secretary of the committee, in which he asked,
"is the Freedom Defence Committee taking up any
position about this ban on communists and fascists?"
Naturally he reserved the right to attack
crypto-Bolsheviks and fellow travellers too. He'd
suffered in Spain at the hands of the Stalinists and
ended up on the run from their secret police,
sleeping on building sites in Barcelona. But he was
fair in so far as he gave people like Konni Zilliacus, a
Bolshevik-inclined Labour MP, the credit they
deserved, arguing that Zilliacus was "sincere if not


hydrarchist writes "The following review was translated by Arianna Bove for the Generation Online reading list. The article was originally published in the Italian communist daily newspaper, Il Manifesto.

Bodies imprisoned by law

F. Barchiesi.

Il Manifesto 12/01/03

The general significance of such a complex work, "From slavery to wage
labour" (manifestolibri, pp. 717, 49 Euro) by Yann Moulier Boutang, finally
translated in Italian, can be grasped from the subtitle to the original
edition: economic history of the bridled proletariat [the original is: De
esclavage au salariat. Economie historique du salariat bridé, PUF (Actuel
Marx/Confrontations), novembre 1998., tr.]. The expression economic history
is the appropriate one for the author?s epistemological project. From this
perspective the aim of the book is precisely to trace the outline of a
total rethinking of Marxian political economy (or, in the author"s words,
to "bring politics" back to Marxian economics), starting from the normative
and institutional forms through which the "wage labour" relation was
constituted, in a process lasting centuries that largely predates the
origin of capitalism itself. Moulier Boutang accomplishes the task via an
impressive series of excursus that combines a research of yet unequalled
breadth of temporal periods and diversity of case studies with an
exceptional command of the terms of the theoretical debate. The genesis of
the capitalist labour relation is analysed by means of an enquiry that runs
from the XIVth century to the first half of the XXth century with rigour
and coherence of exposition. It takes into consideration extremely
diversified contexts such as the formation of the wage labour market in
Western Europe, slavery in the Americas, the mining and plantation
economies in Brazil, the contracted migrations of the coolies, up until the
birth of South African apartheid. In the course of this trajectory, Moulier
Boutang establishes several conceptual points of reference that mark
innovative and often surprising results. In this sense, the work rightly
deserves to be described as "monumental".

hydrarchist writes: The following review was published as a web exclusive from Mute Magazine, an excellent London-based mag covering 'Culture and Politics After the Net.'Recently they shifted from a bimonthly to a biannual production schedule and thus will be making more use of their website. Check them out. Simon Ford is author of "Realization and Suppression of the Situationist International An Annotated Bibliography, 1972-1990," (AK Press, 1994),

Three Recent Books on The Situationist International

by Simon Ford

More than any other post-war avant-garde organisation the Situationist International (SI) has been, until very recently, very poorly served by a mythologizing and historically lazy discourse of hagiography and wilful misunderstanding. There are signs, however, that SI studies are changing and with these changes some interesting dilemmas are emerging, illustrated by the contrasting tones of three recent books on the SI: The Tribe by Jean-Michel Mension, The Consul by Ralph Rumney and Guy Debord and the Situationist International edited by Tom McDonough.