Reviews

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Allan Antliff, Anarchy and Art: From the Paris Commune to the Fall of the Berlin Wall 213 pp.; Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, 2007 Reviewed by Alan W. Moore Anarchy and Art is a straightforward book, concerned with the drama, conflicts and tragedies of the modernist past. The book puts into wider context the close-grained work Allan Antliff did on the New York scene in his Anarchist Modernism (2001). For Antliff, anarchism is the subaltern social movement of the 20th century, colonized, exploited and brutalized by triumphant state socialism (and in the west, leeched by liberal labor movements). This is a story full of sadness, the texture of its histories riven with lost lives and forgotten narratives. Antliff’s book is straightforwardly written, a primer in a point of view that might be called doctrinaire anarchism. Antliff begins his book with a stirring chapter reasserting the significance of the primary texts – Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Goldman, and later Stirner and Reclus. His perspective is traditionally art historical emphasizing the impacts of anarchist theory rather than modes of organizing per se. As we pass over the seemingly familiar grounds of 19th century art history, Antliff deftly turns over one after another instance of anarchist influence.
On Mike Davis' "Planet of Slums" Richard Pithouse Visions of the future, presented as aspiration or inevitability, exercise tremendous power over certain kinds of decision making in the present. In cities where local elites are able to imagine a convivial future for themselves and where the economy is based on consumption as well as production or extraction, the vision of the future is, above all, the idea of a ‘World Class City’. This is the idea that guides and justifies the decisions of the technocratic elites organized in ‘partnerships’ across governments, donor agencies, NGOs, the academy and corporations. Their decisions produce broadly similar results around the world – the exclusion and eviction of the poor, the commodification of public space and public investment in projects for private profit such as conference centers, casinos, hotels, shopping malls, golf course estates, major sports events and so on at the direct expense of public investment in public housing, public facilities and public space. Rem Koolhaas tells us that it is time to get real and the reality is that shopping is “the last remaining form of public activity.”1
Nonfiction: Youthful Anarchy by Jim Feast, The Brooklyn Rail http://www.brooklynrail.org/2008/04/books/nonfiction-youthful-anarchy Reviewing Richard Kempton, Provo: Amsterdam’s Anarchist Revolt (Autonomedia, 2007) In Provo: Amsterdam’s Anarchist Revolt, Richard Kempton has laid open one of the most intriguing and unthinkable passages in recent European history. Why unthinkable? Imagine this. In 1965, a group of disaffected Dutch youth, fed up with their society’s englobed, smug dedication to consumerism, began weekly performances around the base of an innocuous statue of a child, which they periodically doused with gasoline and wreathed in flames. Aside from a small coterie, nobody but the police paid much attention. Nonetheless, the Provos, as they were called, persisted, fashioning a philosophy and series of wacky proposals with the goal of forcing Amsterdam to become a utopia. Their basic idea was: Since society was stifling all forms of self-expression, “its members can only become creative, individual people through anti-social conduct.”
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"

Not Bored!


Reviewing:

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 [1] 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, [2] 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.

"Lenin’s Return"

Paul Le Blanc

Reviewing:

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,
1890-1928
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,
2007
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
LENINISM!


The relevance of the handbill now, in relation to these three
remarkable books, is a reflection of the terrible times in which we
live.

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.

Clandestines. The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile
by Ramor Ryan
AK Press

Reviewed by Juliana Fredman

Summer 2006 Edition Left Turn

Clandestines is a collection of short stories operating as a psychogeography of social and revolutionary movements from the late 1980’s on, mapped by a radicalized Irish anti-authoritarian. Moving from the Old to the New World the stories track the convulsions of the global system and its revolutionary undercurrents through the experience of our erstwhile story-teller. His astute observations embellish reporting, advocacy and tall tales of unpredictable characters and communities to construct an optimistic, if quixotic take on these end times. At its heart it is a testament to hope for the world vibrantly illustrated by handrawn maps and black and white photographs.

The "Knowledge Economy" of the Eighteenth Century:

Newtonian Science and the Growth of British Capitalism
Lesley B. Cormack,

H-Albion

Reviewing:
Practical Matter: Newton's Science
in the Service of Industry and Empire, 1687–1851
Margaret C. Jacob and Larry Stewart

Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 2004. 201 pp. Illustrations, notes, index. $35.00
(cloth), ISBN 0-674-01497-9.

University presidents are fond of proclaiming the importance of the "knowledge economy" in ensuring economic success in the twenty-first century. That is, they argue that the intellectual work of university scholars is really the basis for future prosperity, rather than natural resources, entrepreneurial spirit, or seat-of-the-pants trial and error.

Margaret Jacob and Larry Stewart move this argument back two centuries, arguing that it was precisely the existence of a knowledge economy in the century and a half after Isaac Newton that made possible the huge technological and economic explosion that we now call the Industrial Revolution (or the "industrial revolution," for those less comfortable with the heroic label).

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