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« March 2017 »
Capitalism: The Violence of Capital
Michael Hardt, New Left Review
Michael Hardt on Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine. Neoliberal transformations, from Chile to occupied Iraq, as instances of a ‘disaster capitalism’ enabled by socio-economic and ecological trauma.
Naomi Klein has a gift for grasping the essence of the current political situation and providing a rallying point for the Left. She did so in No Logo, her 2000 best-seller, and she does again in The Shock Doctrine. In both of these books, as in her journalism, she insists that our political challenge centres on the economy—and that you do not necessarily have to be an expert to understand how the global capitalist economy works. The appeal of her prose is sustained by her ability to explain the crux of economic relations in clear, even personal, terms for a general readership.
‘The London Hanged – Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century’, Second edition.
Peter Linebaugh, Verso, 2006, 492 pp.
ISBN 1-85984576-2 (pbk)
Published in Capital and Class, issue 92, Summer 2007.
Reviewed by Trevor Bark
Coming as it does at a time of international and domestic conflict and disputes over law – over competing definitions of ‘justice ‘ and ‘right’ – the reprinting by Verso of this exemplary work of historical materialism in the British Marxist Historian tradition is most welcome. Peter Linebaugh, a student and comrade of E.P. Thompson, has revisited here the political and economic transformations that were necessary to change feudalism into capitalism, which were not simply a question of regime or law and enforcement substitution, since these alterations happened on a piecemeal basis over centuries. The main story in the ‘history from below’ approach is the protest and resistance that the proto working class was engaged in during its struggles for survival.
NOT BORED! writes:
"The Worst Book Ever Written by a Situationist"
A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings: On the Sovereignty of Life as Surpassing the Rights of Man
By Raoul Vaneigem
"Nothing strengthens foolishness better than to honor it with a polemic." — Raoul Vaneigem, 2000.
Raoul Vaneigem's A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings: On the Sovereignty of Life as Surpassing the Rights of Man  is easily one of the worst books we have ever read, and it is certainly the worst book ever written by a former member of the Situationist International (SI). Indeed, it is so bad that, were it not for the fact that we recently passed six months translating Vaneigem's superb book La Resistance de le Christianisme,  we would not have felt the need to write this review. We would simply have said "Avoid Vaneigem's book about human rights" and left it at that. But this would not have been intellectually honest nor particularly helpful to our readers: there is something wrong with Raoul Vaneigem. It isn't simply the case that some of his books are "good" and that others are "bad." It is almost as if there is Vaneigem, the author of a handful of great books, and then there is someone else who calls himself "Vaneigem" and writes books that would be unthinkable and even offensive to "the other Vaneigem."
The central thesis of A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings is that "human rights" are a mere by-product of the rights that the State has accorded to the so-called free market. "The rights of man are no more than specific amplifications of a single right, which is the right to survive merely for the sake of working towards the survival of a totalitarian economy which was imposed untruthfully as the sole means of sustaining the human race," Vaneigem writes. As a result, "the rights of man sanction in a positive form the negation of the rights of the human being": that is, political freedom is a simple compensation for economic unfreedom. As a historical matter,
the upsurge of the rights of man stems from the expansion of free trade [...] The earliest charters of freedoms appear during the ferment of uprisings in the communes, from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, which opposed the entrenched agrarian situation and its parasitical aristocracy with the redoubt of the towns then in full commercial expansion. The air of city freedoms inspired the pre-industrial bourgeoisie to establish a right of recourse against the arbitrariness of the feudal regime, whose predatory parasitism widely hindered the free circulation of merchandise.
Louis Proyect, Unrepentant Marxist
Scheduled for theatrical release in June (NYC, the 15th; Los Angeles the 29th), “Gypsy Caravan: When the Road Bends” is a film that is very much in the mold of “Buena Vista Social Club” and just as likeable. It also evokes the 1993 “Latcho Drom” (”safe journey”), another great film about Roma music.
It documents a six-week tour in 2001 by some of the greatest Roma musicians in the world, who are seen performing, socializing with each other in hotels and on the bus, and participating in village life back home. It is directed by Jasmine Dellal, who directed “American Gypsy: a Stranger in Everybody’s Land” for PBS in 2001, and filmed by Albert Maysles, the legendary director of “Gimme Shelter,” a record of a Rolling Stones tour, and other works.
The tour was organized by the World Music Institute (WMI), a New York-based nonprofit whose concerts I have reviewed in the past and who I have contributed money to. Given New York’s relentless drive toward high-rise yuppie hell, the WMI is one of the remaining cultural artifacts that make life livable here. Furthermore, the culture of the Roma people is about as at odds with the profit-driven world of real estate and banking as can be imagined. Besides their cultural legacy of some of the world’s greatest music, these unfairly maligned peoples can teach us about how to live better lives. Macedonian Esma Rezepova, one of the tour’s starring performers, put it this way: “The Roma have never made war or invaded another country.”
Paul Le Blanc
Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What Is to Be Done?’ in Context
by Lars T. Lih
Leidin/Boston: Brill, 2006
867 pages, including index. Hardcover, $181.00
James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left,
by Bryan D. Palmer
Urbana and Chicago: University of
Illinois Press, 2007
542 pages,including index. Hardcover $50.00.
Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth
edited by Sebastian Budgen,
Stathis Kouvelakis, and Slavoj Žižek
Durham: Duke University Press,
337 pages, including index. Hardcover $84.95, softcover $29.95.
About 40 years ago, my great-uncle (now long dead) gave me an old
handbill printed in red ink, issued by District 2 of the Workers Party,
which proclaimed LENIN LIVES! It urged us to “Come En Masse” to
Madison Square Garden to a Sunday afternoon event chaired by Ben Gitlow
(a central leader of U.S. Communism who later devolved into a
professional anti-Communist on the far-right), an event which included
the 400-voice Freiheit Chorus, a 100-piece symphony orchestra, and
speeches from William Z. Foster, C. E. Ruthenberg, Moissaye Olgin, and
Jack Stachel – for an admission fee of 50 cents (not a negligible sum
in 1925) and with an exhortation at the handbill’s bottom: LONG LIVE
The relevance of the handbill now, in relation to these three
remarkable books, is a reflection of the terrible times in which we
NOT BORED! writes:
One Step Forward, One Step Back
Reviewing the new edition of Ken Knabb's Situationist International Anthology
The Liberal International
Iain Boal & Michael Watts
Reviewing David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford UP, 2005
1917–21. 1944–48. 1968–72. Any accounting of the twentieth century worth its salt will hinge around the events — and ultimate defeats — of these pivotal years. No easy task, and one for forensic historians, since the forces of reaction buried the losers and the victims. Buried along with them were anticipations of a different world, glimpsed by the Kronstadt sailors, the council-communist partisans, and the autonomists of Mexico City and Bologna, among many. But whatever the effects of these quadrennial moments on individual human lives — and they greatly depended on accidents of place, family, and generation — we are all living in their long shadow.
As for the aftermath of the sixties, September 11th, 1973 now seems a date pregnant with history. It is clearly time to gauge the enormity of that watershed, when the neoliberal counter-revolution was given its first airing with the assassination of Allende and the delivery of the Chilean economy to the "Chicago boys". It is a foundational moment for David Harvey in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, one of the first sustained efforts to chronicle the new global landscape of capitalism.
Ramor Ryan. 'Clandestines: The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile'
“......the only thing that works is memory. Collective memory, but also even the tiniest, most insignificant memory of a personal kind. I suspect, in fact, that one can barely survive without the other, that legend cannot be constructed without anecdote” - Paco Ignacio Taibo II
Clandestines consists of a series of stories and reflections culled from Ryan’s experience of over twenty years of activism. The result is an entertaining and readable mixture of memoir, political essay, travelogue and literature. Clandestines then is not your standard political tract but rather a form of political picaresque documenting Ryan’s adventures as a wayward radical with an uncanny ability to find himself in interesting and often tricky situations everywhere from the mountains of Kurdistan to jungles of Chiapas. Ryan has certainly been around the block and the book includes a number of eyewitness accounts of events of major political and historical importance such as the massacre of mourners at a Republican funeral in Belfast by Michael Stone in 1988 and the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990.
However, Ryan is at his best when he is observing the everyday and the marginal rather than the epic and grandiose and much of the book is taken up with Ryan's descriptions of various encounters with people at the edges of history. These memorable character sketches, by turns affectionate and exasperated, often ironic and occasionally derisive, fill and enliven the pages of Clandestines. Ryan wanders amongst this motley crew-the generous and riotously joyful Berlin squatters, the Zapatista peasants, the disaffected Cubans, a drunk Croatian war veteran, the Central American gang members, a charismatic Venezuelan punk singer, the self indulgent hippies at a Rainbow Gathering and a host of others- observing, conspiring, joking and drinking and ultimately turning these encounters into a series of amusing and interesting tales without ever stretching the reader's credulity too far.
El Kilombo Intergaláctico writes:
John Holloway's Change the World Without Taking Power
[Translator’s note: The following review of John Holloway's Change the World Without Taking Power appears as an "Addenda" to Chapter 13 of Global: Biopower and Struggles in a Globalized Latin America, a book co-authored by Antonio Negri and Giuseppe Cocco's (Italian political scientist currently residing in Brazil) and distributed in Spanish by Paidos, Argentina. Due to the nature of Negri's writing and certain ambiguities made possible by the Spanish in which it first appears, this translation remains preliminary and we would welcome any suggestions for changes. Translation by El Kilombo Intergaláctico.]
Change the World Without Taking Power by John Holloway is a beautiful but strange book. Its paradox consists of the fact that, in his critique of Italian operaismo (the method of which is the basis of our book), Holloway considers dialectical Marxism (what he calls “the problem of form”) as predisposed to assume the fetishistic character of the world (this is his reality principle), and at the same time as capable of proposing an antagonistic foundation for action. In practice, however, Holloway considers reality only from its fetishistic side while critiquing operaismo—attacking it for having employed dialectics—exclusively from its antagonistic side. With this in mind, where is the principle for action within Holloway’s perspective?
Let us develop this thought. The words that Holloway uses are very harsh. According to him, operaismo would be a “radical democratic” theory and consequently (according to the traditional polemic), neither working class nor revolutionary because it is incapable of understanding Marxist dialectics as the discovery of the radical negativity of the world. But Holloway belongs only partially to this tradition—one towards which he shows much respect, if at times irreverence. Here we will see how.
Signs of the Times
Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Using a statistical lens, two just-released books shed light on the
ravages of corporate globalization.
Vital Signs 2006–2007 from the Washington, D.C.-based WorldWatch
Institute contends that "the health of the global economy and the
stability of nations will be shaped by our ability to address the huge
imbalances in natural resource systems."
The Least Developed Countries Report 2006, issued by the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), argues that while there
have been relatively higher rates of economic growth in the Least
Developed Countries (LDCs, a UN-designated group of the world's poorest
50 countries), it is "not translating into poverty reduction and
improved human well-being."
Here are 20 factoids from the reports, the first 10 from Vital Signs,
the second 10 from The Least Developed Countries Report: