Noam Chomsky, the well known historian and philosopher, talks to Gary Younge from ‘The Guardian’ about the significance of the Occupy movement in America and how he thinks it’ll affect Obama and the upcoming presidential elections in November
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John Holloway, author of ‘Crack Capitalism’ and ‘Change the World Without Changing Power’, is someone I admire greatly. The other day I came across his list of favourite radical books which he chose for the virtual Occupy library. So I’m delighted to be able to share them with you now;
Capital by Karl (1867)
It remains the most radical critique of capitalism and an essential starting point for understanding the debates around capitalist development and the possibility of radical change. It’s best to read it collectively
The Principle of Hope by Ernst Bloch (1947)
This is where I started and it remains a constant point of reference. A wonderful book that takes us into all aspects of life and shows them to be a pushing towards that which is Not Yet
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (1976)
A novel of hope and fear that takes the notion of communism (or whatever we want to call it) into new dimensions
The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem (1967)
For me the best of Situationism. Revolutionary thought at its anti-dogmatic and exciting best
Negative Dialectics by Theodor W. Adorno (1966)
Fiercely difficult, and well worth the effort. The critique of identity shakes the world
Lenin in England by Mario Tronti (1964) Continue reading »
An article that turns traditional Marxism upside down and lays the basis for autonomist/operaista thought
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Molleindustria, a collective of Italian artists, designers and programmers have created a fantastic videogame that calls to our attention the detrimental effects of videogames, the flaws in modern parenting, and America’s use of drones in conflicts in the Middle East. These three disparate themes, seemingly unrelated except for their damaging effects on human beings, are brought together beautifully in Unmanned.
The arts collective are well known for ridiculing the fast food industry, major religions, and the nine-to-five work week with their other sardonic and socially poignant videogames and this time round it is no different. You can paly the video online or download it onto your computer.
Here’s a summary of it:
The muted adventure begins with our protagonist dreaming of work, as many of us do, except that his job is to operate an unmanned drone, striking far-off targets from a safe, remote location. He contemplates the implications of his job while you shave his face. If you move the razor too fast you’ll cut his face which last the duration of the game. Continue reading »
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I’d be interested to know what you think of this video in which BBC Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason, talks about how the wave of revolts that began in late 2008 have signaled the end of a time when it seemed easier for people to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. As he says himself:
The “cancelled future” generation has undergone a radical shift from apathetic despair to inspired action
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Future Orchard is a collectively owned Orchard in Cork, Ireland and took off in 2009 under the leadership of Artist Elaine Garde-Wulff. She began with a hectare of land, divided it up into lots of 100 and sold the orchard off to interested parties; her friends, neighbours, etc.
This model of eco enterprise rejects the need for loans, capital investment or any dependency on grants instead all orchard shareholders have a vested interest in the orchard and create wealth by security of tenure under collective ownership. The shareholding is financially accessible to everyone with all embracing a co-operative and egalitarian approach to the project.
Since 2009 Elaine has begun to create her own currency using potato skins.
There are a few shares avaiulable if you’re interested. Continue reading »
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In the preface to his book, The Beginning of History, Massimo de Angelis remembers how in 1969, in a classroom in Milan, he first encountered what he calls ‘the outside’. In the course of a short break conceded by the teacher he, a nine year old boy, was carefully sticking the picture cards of his ‘history of Italy’ collection into an album so that the pictures matched the description underneath.
Suddenly, I remember very vividly, I could not believe it: in my hand I held the image of a man dressed in a large white shirt who seemed to be shouting. In his hand was a banner, and on it, written in clear capital letter, the word ‘SCIOPERO’, strike.
The caption which matched the image had the date ’1908′. He asked his teacher whether this was correct, whether there had been strikes in the past. Growing up in the 1960s, and then into the 1970s, he was led to believe that the strikes, demonstrations and occupations which were spreading throughout Italy, and elsewhere, were novel, that such actions were unusual, out of the blue even. Those commentators who didn’t want things to change, not just the politicians and the capitalists but the many people scared of change, of the unknown, repeatedly spoke of how such actions were symptoms of social breakdown or a change in the way things used to be: an imagined past of stability and prosperity where each knew their proper place. The ‘outside’ which de Angelis refers to is not a mysterious or untouchable ‘other’. As I understand it the ‘outside’ is the news that things were not always as they are.
The historical and sociological narratives taught in classrooms are not censored in the common understanding of the word but they do, necessarily, describe a particular way of framing events, characters, temporality. Struggles that were fought and won become part of an inevitable trajectory of a set of ideas, of ways of organizing social and ecological relations. It is not new or exciting to remember that the victors always write the history books. But even those who lose the struggles find ways of appropriating history to enforce their arguments or vision of the world. Histories become another proof to enroll into a general theory of power or social transformation. What is lost in these generalizing explanations (‘this event happened because conditions dictated that they would’) is the singular power of historical events, the way in which history occurs precisely because people confuse the sociologist and the scientist, defying what is understood as possible, escaping explanation and causality.
The history of popular struggles is always about the appearance of actors who had no right or reason to appear. The acting of people in places they are not supposed to be, speaking words they are not supposed to know, finding expressions that were supposed to be beyond them. This overturning of their proper place and function within unequal, ordered societies defies not just those who rule over such societies but also those who imagine that ordinary people can not help themselves, who think that people need to know how things are before they can imagine what a better world could be. Continue reading »
The history of these struggles, small and big, show how people organised themselves despite the efforts of discipline and punishment, of exile and execution ‘outside’ the governing sensibility. Within these spaces normal(izing) roles and relations were suspended, allowing for unpredictable and powerful combinations, the circulation and production of new knowledge, the constituent forces which, eventually, come to appear on the stage of history, bursting open the claim that ‘things have always been so, things will always be so’.
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In this video British Historian, Eric Hobsbawm - whose best known works include, the trilogy about the long 19th century: The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848, The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 and The Age of Empire: 1875-1914, discusses the Occupy movement that hit the streets in 2011 and reflects on the “pathological degeneration” of capitalism today. Continue reading »
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Situationist thinking defined the 1968 Paris Spring; a spontaneous uprising that nearly toppled the French government and threatened to erupt into a global insurrection against capitalism from within. Protesting alienation, inequality and society of the spectacle, slogans like “Boredom is counterrevolutionary” and “Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!” filled the mouths and songs of millions who at their core, were in open revolt to the demands of consumer society. Raoul Vaneigem was a member of the Situationist International from 1961 to 1970 and the author of more than thirty books and a key thinker in the movement. He was in the streets in 1968 and offers his thoughts to interviewer Siné Mensuel on then and now.
Siné Mensuel: Can you give a brief definition of the situationists?
Raoul Vaneigem: No. The living is irreducible to definitions. The vitality and radicality of the situationists continues to develop behind the scenes of a spectacle that has every reason to keep quiet and conceal itself. On the other hand, the ideological recuperation that this radicality has been subjected to has experienced a superficial surge, but its interests have nothing in common with mine.
Siné Mensuel: What did the situs mean when they said that situationism doesn’t exist?
Raoul Vaneigem: The situationists were always hostile to ideologies, and to speak of situationism would be to place an ideology where there isn’t one.
Siné Mensuel: Why did you break with the Situationist International in 1970? In hindsight, what do you think of Guy Debord?
Raoul Vaneigem: I broke [off] because the radicality that had been the priority in May 1968 was in the process of dissolving into bureaucratic behavior. Each member had chosen to pursue his route alone or to abandon the project of a self-managed society. Perhaps Debord and I felt more complicity than affection, but the split doesn’t matter! What is sincerely lived is never lost. The rest is only the dregs of futility.
Siné Mensuel: What’s your take on the Movement of the Indignant?
Raoul Vaneigem: It is a public-safety reaction against the resignation and fear that provide the tyranny of capitalism with its best supports. But indignation isn’t enough. It is less a matter of struggling against a system that is collapsing than in favor of new social structures founded upon direct democracy. While the State is destroying public services, only a self-managing movement can take charge of the well-being of everyone.
Siné Mensuel: Is utopianism still on the agenda?
Raoul Vaneigem: Utopianism? From now on, that’s the hell of the past. We have always been constrained to live in a place that is everywhere but, in that place, we are nowhere. That’s the reality of our exile. It has been imposed on us for thousands of years by an economy founded on the exploitation of man by man. Humanist ideology has made us believe that we are human while we remain, for the most part, reduced to the state of beasts whose predatory instincts are satisfied by the will to power and appropriation. Our “vale of tears” was considered the best possible world. Could we have invented a way of living that is more phantasmagorical and absurd than the all-powerful cruelty of the gods, the caste of priests and princes ruling enslaved peoples, the obligation to work that is supposed to guarantee joy and substantiate the Stalinist paradise, the millenarianist Third Reich, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, the society of well-being (the Welfare state), the totalitarianism of money beyond which there is neither individual nor social safety, [and] finally the idea that survival is everything and life is nothing? Against that utopia, which passes for reality, is opposed the only reality that matters: what we try to live by assuring our happiness and that of everyone else. Thenceforth, we no longer are in a utopia, but at the heart of a mutation, a change of civilization that takes shape under our eyes and that many people, blinded by the dominant obscurantism, are incapable of discerning. Because the quest for profit makes men into predatory, insensitive and stupid brutes. Continue reading »
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In the lead up to the Irish Budget, Occupy Cork organised a March of Defiance – which was part of a National Occupy campaign – in Cork City. As part of that march Cork Community Artlink were asked to get involved, to make props, flags, posters. In other words bring a more creative aspect to the proceedings. It was after that action that I, from this skills exchange, and William and Sinead from Artlink decided we would carry this idea further and move this creative defiance onto the next step. And so it was that two weeks ago we sat down and trashed it out, threw ideas around and came up with what amounts to a risk, a possibility, a chance, an opportunity to create something new, something that belongs to all of us – a peoples festival. No name yet, nothing definite, except that it would be a series of events created and produced by the people of cork; community groups, organisations and associations, development projects, charities, artist co-operatives, studios, dance and theatre companies, musicians, businesses, venues.
So how are we going to make this work? Is it practical, do-able, are we able? Continue reading »
We are busy people, all of us, you and me, all trying desperately to keep our heads above water, broke, everything tight, on the line, on the edge. On the face of it, it seems nigh on impossible to develop any sort of project in this state of crisis, in this recession. But, and it’s a big but, if we find a way to come together and share our skills, resources, time and energy to develop, create and produce these events, talks, tea parties, gigs, workshops, films, plays, musicals, talent shows, street theatre, kids events, parties, puppet shows, art exhibitions, craft exhibitions, storytelling, sport events, neighbourhood picnics, projections, historical walking tours, etc in the city and in the different communities around the city we could make a seismic change in the cultural life of this city. Set an example to everyone. Make our claim.
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I managed to miss the Parade Of Defiance – organised by the Occupy Movement – last Saturday in Cork. It was in opposition to the upcoming budget which was announced, in two parts, by the Irish Government this week. Inevitably it was a budget that will only see more hardship being forced on people than ever before, an austerity budget that will burden the people of this country with more inequality, poverty and pain. And there are five more to come
What made this march different, even if in a subtle way, was the role played by Artlink, a Cork based Community Arts Organisation, who brought a sense of creativity, artistic expression and colour to the protest as it winded itself through the City of Cork. I think this was a new departure, it was significant, a positive move that will ultimately bring the Occupy movement beyond its present state into one of creativity. It is a much needed step. For the movement to survive it is not enough to be physically present on our streets – although their physical presence, as a manifestation of our frustrations, is incredibly important – it needs to be creative, it needs to be an artistic means of protest, a more creative dynamic, not unlike the philosophy of protest that the Zapatistas in Chiapas have undertaken over the years. As John Holloway re-iterated over and over again in his fine book ‘Crack Capitalism’ the old strategies of protest must be left behind. New ideas, new means of artistic revolt must rise up, take their place if we are to truly create a new world that is more equal and democratic; If we are to crack the frozen ice of capitalism that lies above our everyday existence.
“Imagine a sheet of ice covering a dark lake of possibility. We scream ‘NO’ so loud that the ice begins to crack. What is it that is uncovered? What is that dark liquid that (sometimes, not always) slowly or quickly bubbles up through the crack? We shall call it dignity…..Cracks are explorations – creations of a world that does not yet exist. We walk over the threshold into a counter – world in which exploration is indistinguishable from creation: the only paths are those we make by walking”
John Holloway from Crack Capitalism
Last week I was talking about this very subject with someone in the arts community I have much respect for. He had come to the same conclusion. We both agreed that rehashing old forms of protest was a waste of time, energy, money, space. We live in an age of oversaturation by the media, we are all unconsciously educated in form, context, content, technology and using well worn templates to get the message out is pointless. No one looks, reads, sees, hears, takes any notice of them anymore. The forms of protest have to change, and have been changing with the emergence of the worldwide occupy movement, however this change in form must continue to be a creative one, a process of artistic intervention, of imagination, of dreaming. We must not lull in stasis, we must capture the idea and express it in our most life affirming way. We must use our ingenuity, collective power of imagination to reach out, shout out and bring the old order down.
For change to come we must be creative. It has always been so. History is on our side
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One of our skills exchange members has decided to take the bull by the horns and start an open discussion on alternative economies in Dublin on Saturday 10th December. If you’re interested, curious, intrigued get in touch.
We’re living in extraordinary times – and the only safe prediction we can make is that things are set a whole lot stranger!
The governing and finance institutions that regulate our lives have exposed deep cracks at their very foundations; their collapse would throw much of how things are done upside down.
So what can we do about it?
Should we just hunker down, brace for impact and hope for the best?
Or at least, there’s more to it than that: we can start building today new institutions and communities that will give us control of our own lives – and hold things together as the old ones fall apart.
This chaos and turbulence we are experiencing also makes the ground fantastically fertile to new ideas – new ideas which are popping up and spreading all over the world! Continue reading »
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Today we bring you a message from Occupy Cork who have been camped on South Mall, Cork City for six weeks. They’re currently looking for people, all people, to get together, exchange skills, ideas and resources with the aim of creating a Day Of Action on Saturday December 3rd:
‘We are a local expression of a global movement that has spread to over 1600 towns and cities worldwide as a response to the on-going economic crisis and the policy of making ordinary people pay for the recklessness of a few. We have received overwhelming support so far from the people of Cork, who recognise the need for opposition to the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. As we enter into our sixth week of occupation at the Peace Park on South Mall, we feel that it is time that we extend our voice to the communities of Cork. So, we are calling for a united day of action on Saturday, December 3rd. Continue reading »
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Occupy Cork has been going for quite a while now and for the last number of weeks I’ve felt impotent; not knowing how to help, what to do. Now, through this skills exchange, I have found a way through.
The facts are simple; I have a young child, I work like a lunatic to keep the family above water and I simply haven’t had time to go down to the camp, stay, participate get involved. This conflict of wanting to be a part of something, wanting to give while knowing that I need to keep struggling to pay the bills had, up until recently, left me disjointed, dispirited, discouraged, useless.
Now that has changed. Two weeks ago myself and Carl Plover – who is in much the same position as myself – had a drink and talked it through. What could we do? How could we give something of ourselves? How could we marry our ridiculously busy lives with the immensity of whats going on in over 1500 camps across the World made up of many nationalities, inspired by solidarity, making a stand at local level and as part of an autonomous global collective action. Continue reading »
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A member of our mutantspace arts skills exchange has just finished a political billboard for an arts project in Bristol, UK. Here is his story…
When a friend of mine told me about the Burg Arts Project I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. I have worked on a few large scale art works in the past but how often does the offer to use a billboard as a canvas come up? The subversion of advertisements and popular imagery has been a constant in my work and here was a chance to put it into its proper context.
For me this was akin to my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut except this one came true. (The astronaut dream is still on the backburner and I am hoping in the future I’ll get an email from a friend saying that someone in Bristol has built a space ship out of sticky black plastic and washing up liquid bottles and is looking for amateur astronauts to fly it to Mars.) Continue reading »
The billboard itself sits on a busy main road in St Werebergs, a small but thriving area of Bristol that has a strong anarchic tradition. The Billboard had been unused for a few years before Justin (the brains behind Burg Arts) commandeered it to show the large scale art works of some of Bristol’s home grown artists. The project is entirely self funded which means the artist basically retains creative control. Each piece remains up for a month.
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Our relationship with monetary value is far more tenuous than we think. Yes our life is dictated by the cost of everything and yes we value our work, time and skills in terms of what the market will pay for it yet sometimes, sometimes we are confronted with a different proposition, a moment when we are given a choice. And within that moment, however small, we have the opportunity to take control, put ourselves in a position to change things if only for a limited period of time
So what the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about us, you and me not being as subservient to the marketplace as we might think, not as driven downward by pre-determined forces as we might imagine. Sometimes we are foisted into a position of self determination, when one decision can create a change, if albeit a small one. And they should not be taken for granted Continue reading »
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