A Seminar with Occupy Berlin

June 18, 2012

Three Crises: 30s-70s-Today

The Autonomous University is an old dream that finds new expressions in every period of systemic change and political upheaval. This seminar is part of a global constellation of parallel efforts to establish a new basis for militant research, educational experimentation and public political debate. At its heart are lectures and group discussions at the intimate scale of a self-organized classroom, relayed and augmented by the use of Internet resources. The sessions have been planned in collaboration with members of Occupy Berlin. Their aim is to produce useful knowledge about the historical roots and possible futures of the current political-economic crisis.

Slides of each session:

1st session

2nd session

3rd session

4rth session

5th session

6th session

Seminar Outline

(readings are posted after the description of each session, below)

GOALS: The seminar seeks to develop a framework for understanding the present political-economic crisis and for acting within and beyond it. Historical study is integrated with activist experience and artistic expression. The seminar is part of the autonomous university program developed by Occupy Berlin. It includes Internet resources for sharing research notes and reference materials. All of this builds on a similar experiment at Mess Hall in Chicago (http://messhall.org), with inspiration from the Public School, the Edufactory network and other autonomous education initiatives.

FORMAT: An introduction, six core sessions and a conclusion, compressed into one intensive week (see calendar for dates/times). Readings can be done in advance or later, as desired by each person. The first hour of each session will be a lecture/slideshow by Brian Holmes, an autonomous researcher and cultural critic living in the US. The second hour is a group discussion, seeking to integrate the North American perspective with European historical experiences. The respondent for the first five sessions will be Armin Medosch, a Vienna and London-based researcher with whom the theoretical framework of the seminar was developed. Other respondents will be sought in the course of the event.

CONCEPT: The development of capitalism is marked, every thirty or forty years, by the eruption of extended economic crises that restructure the entire system in organizational, technological, financial and geopolitical terms, while affecting daily life and commonly held values and attitudes. In the course of these crises, conditions of exploitation and domination are challenged by grassroots and anti-systemic movements, with major opportunities for positive change. However, each historical crisis so far has also elicited an elite response, stabilizing the worldwide capitalist system on the basis of a new integration/repression of classes, interest groups, genders and minority populations (whose definition, composition and character also change with the times). In the United States, because of its leading position within twentieth-century capitalism, the domestic resolution of each of the previous two crises has helped to restructure not only national social relations, but also the international political-economic order. Nothing ensures that the same thing will happen again. By examining the crises of the 1930s and the 1970s along with the top-down responses and the resulting hegemonic compromises, we can try to cut through the inherited ideological confusion, gain insight into our own positions within contemporary neoliberal society, identify the elite projects on the horizon and begin to formulate our own possible agency during the continuing period of instability and chaos.

SESSIONS:

1. Introduction: technopolitical paradigms, crisis, and the formation of new hegemonies.
How to grasp the potential for systemic change that lies hidden in the turbulence of a major crisis? How to symbolize it and express it through intellectual and artistic means? The seminar begins with a theoretical concept of more-or-less coherent “long waves” of capitalist development, understood as technopolitical paradigms. These waves are typically generated in specific geographical regions, but they extend their influence across the globe. For twenty to thirty-year periods, technologies, organizational forms, social institutions and global economic and military agreements find a working fit that allows for growth and expansion, up to a limit-point where the paradigm begins to encounter conditions of stagnation and internal contradiction. In some cases, known as regulation crises, the resolution of the crisis stabilizes a social order corresponding to an entrenched productive system. In other cases, technological bifurcations and even shifts of global hegemony may occur. So far, the resolution of each major crisis has added another a new technological-organizational-cultural layer to the previously existing ones. That’s what makes world society so damn complicated!

Reading 1

2. Working-class movements and the socialist challenge during the Great Depression.
This session begins with an analysis the assembly-line mass production paradigm in the United States, then turns to economic and social conditions following the Crash of ‘29. We follow the interaction between labor movements and communist doctrines, while examining the major institutional innovations of the Roosevelt administration (and contrasting them to German history in the discussion). Can the 1930s be understood as a “regulation crisis” of Taylorist mass production? What are the forces that provoked the crisis? Who emerged as its major actors? Where were the initial solutions found? How did the New Deal become an idealized figure of class compromise for succeeding generations, far beyond the United States?

Reading 2a

Reading 2b
3. The Council on Foreign Relations during WWII and Keynesian Fordism.
Only after 1938 was the economic crisis resolved in the US, through the state orchestration of innovation and production effected by wartime institutions. Corporate leaders from the Council on Foreign Relations were directly inducted to the Roosevelt government and planned the postwar monetary and free-trade order later enshrined in the Bretton-Woods treaties. What kinds of technological and organizational changes were brought by wartime planning? How was the intense labor militancy of the 1930s absorbed into the Cold War domestic balance? To what extent did an American hegemony shape the industrial boom in the Keynesian social democracies of Western Europe and Japan? How were the industrial welfare states supported and enabled by neocolonial trade relations and resource extraction? Why do people continue to see postwar society as a positive norm?

Reading 3a

Reading 3b

4. The ‘60s revolts, Third-World self-assertion, counter-revolution.
The brief convergence of labor movements, student revolts and minority rights campaigns in 1968 was a global phenomenon, spurred on by Third World liberation and the war in Vietnam. This session begins with anti-systemic struggles and then zooms in on the SDS, Black Power and Feminist movements in the United States. Participants in the discussion will fill in the comparisons and contrasts with Germany and other countries. Did the US and Europe internalize global socio-economic contradictions during this period? Which aspects of the political and cultural revolts posed real obstacles to the existing economic structure? Which ones later became raw materials for the formation of a new hegemonic compromise? What were the elite reactions to grassroots insurgencies?

Reading 4a

Reading 4b

5. The Trilateral Commission and Neoliberal Informationalism.
Wildcat strikes, welfare claims and high resource prices imposed by producer countries (notably OPEC) all contributed to the crisis of the 1970s. But there was more: the breakdown of Bretton-Woods in 1971 and the conquest of relative autonomy by Western Europe and Japan, along with the Third World push for a New International Economic Order. The launch of the Trilateral Commission in 1973 was an elite response to the crisis, laying the basis for an expanded hegemony whose sovereign expression was the G7 group, founded in 1975. The coming of “postindustrial society” was announced by sociology, while innovations like the microprocessor went into mass production. Cooperation among trilateral elites was paralleled by financialization and the rise of computer networks. In the US, the Treasury-induced US recession of 1980-82, the hi-tech “Star Wars” military buildup and the emergence of a distinct, university-based innovation system became the linchpins of a new technopolitical paradigm: Neoliberal Informationalism. We will consider the major features of the new paradigm and discuss the way it became hegemonic in the US, Western Europe and Japan.

Reading 5a

Reading 5b

“Flexible Personality” (German translation on the same page)

6. 1989 and the roots of current crisis.
With the breakdown of the USSR in 1989, followed by the first Gulf War, the world-space was opened up for transformation by the Trilateral economic system, based on information processing and just-in-time production. The 1990s witnessed the largest capitalist expansion since the postwar boom. With the collapse of the USSR and the integration of the former Communist world, both the capitalist market and labor force were doubled in size. Transoceanic fiber-optic cables ringed the earth and production lines became regional and global, circumventing national labor regulations. After tracking the Trilateral expansion of Neoliberal Informationalism we’ll focus on the rise of the Gulf states and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), as well as the political challenges to the Washington Consensus that took form in the 1990s: the anti-globalization movement, Latin American Leftism, Salafi Jihad. Did these challenges signify the end of the Trilateral hegemony?

Reading 6a

7. Financial crisis and elite attempts to stabilize Neoliberal Informationalism.
Finally we examine the inherently volatile dynamics of the informational economy, culminating in the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the dot-com bust of 2000 and the credit crunch of 2008, followed by the ongoing fiscal crisis of the neoliberal state. Little has been done in the US to control financial capital, but across the Trilateral countries the debt crisis has massively punished the low-income sectors of society and eroded the status of the middle classes, with a major attack on the public university system and a move to cut all remaining welfare-state entitlements. Have we entered a regulation crisis of Neoliberal Informationalism? How have the EU and Japan responded? What paths have been taken by the Gulf states, Russia, Latin America and China? Are new alliances forming among international elites, outside the Trilateral arenas? What could make the grassroots resistance stronger?

Reading 7a

“Eventwork”

8. Perspectives for egalitarian and ecological social change in the upcoming decade.
In the absence of reform and redistribution, continued financial turmoil is certain, along with a decline of the Trilateral countries and a reorganization of the monetary-military order. Meanwhile, climate change is already upon us, advancing much faster than anticipated. We face a triple crisis, economic, geopolitical and ecological, with consequences that can’t be predicted on the basis of past experience. What are the central contradictions that will mark the upcoming years? Which institutions and social bargains have already come under severe stress? In what ways will the ecological crisis begin to produce political responses? How will class struggles within the US and Europe interact with the crossborder and worldwide struggles heralded by the Arab Spring? Can grassroots movements seize the chances of the crisis? On what basis could new anti-systemic movements be forged?

SILENCE=DEBT

June 2, 2012

Life Beyond the Education Bubble

DOWNLOAD THE ESSAY:

here

VIDEO OF THE LECTURE:

here

A Statement

from the Occupy Student Debt Campaign

Everybody is now talking about the student debt crisis, but nothing is being done about it. Thanks in large part to the great public amplifier of the Occupy movement, this year’s presidential contenders have been forced to embrace student loan reform as a talking point in their respective campaigns. But the debt relief being pushed by the Obama administration is a token gesture, aimed at getting some traction on the youth vote–especially the more disillusioned or alienated student constituencies. Recent bills introduced in Congress–Student Loan Forgiveness Act (H.R. 4170) and the Private Student Bankruptcy Fairness Act (H.R. 2028)–have zero chance of passing in anything like their current form. Practically speaking, no reform program of any substance is on the legislative horizon, least of all one that would regulate the predatory lending practices of Wall Street banks.

The truth is that student debt relief is too important to be left to elected officials. They are chronically dependent on the financial backing of the lending industry, and are structurally incapable of addressing this crisis, let alone resolving it. As a result, reform initiatives such as Student Loan Justice and Forgive Student Debt (to Stimulate the Economy) that have been aimed at petitioning lawmakers have very little to show for all their hard effort. The recent federal modifications in payment schedules are micro-cosmetic compared to the sea-change that is required to free debtors of their intolerable burdens and rescue higher education from its increasing use as a profit engine for financiers, asset speculators, and real estate developers. The pathway to this outcome does not lie in futile pleas for economic reform, but through a political movement, driven by self-empowerment and direct action on the part of debtors.

The Occupy Student Debt Campaign was launched at Zuccotti Park in November 2011 with the goal of building a student debt abolition movement. Our campaign is based on principles for which we believe there is widespread support

1) Free public education, through federal coverage of tuition fees.
2) Zero-interest student loans, so that no one can profit from them
3) Fiscal transparency at all universities, public as well as private
4) The elimination of current student debt, through a single act of relief.

These are interlocking principles, and should not stand on their own. Imagine a world in which lawmakers were to respond positively to the current calls for debt “forgiveness” (an unfortunate term that implies the debtor has sinned). Such a measure would offer much-needed relief, but it would still disadvantage future debtors if it were not complemented by remedies that brought to an end the practice of compelling students to privately fund higher education by going into debt bondage. So, too, a singular focus on reducing interest rates (even to zero) is more likely to encourage colleges to increase their fees than to open up equitable access to education.

In light of Wall Street’s stranglehold on Congress, the Occupy Student Debt Campaign holds that alternative strategies are necessary to promote and publicize our principles. That is why it endorses the practice of debt refusal as a legitimate response to the predicament of individuals and communities targeted by predatory lenders, or by state officials seeking to pass on the costs of the financial crisis in the guise of austerity measures. Greece, Chile, England, Italy, Spain, and Quebec have all seen popular revolts against government efforts to preserve, and extend, the power of financial elites to discipline selected populations. With each new outbreak of people’s voices, the imposition of debt is publicly exposed, not simply as a means of redistributing wealth upwards, but also as an instrument of social control.

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Crisis Theory for Complex Societies

April 30, 2012

A Project Proposal at Occupy Chicago

MP3 OF THE TALK AT OCCUPY CHICAGO: part 1 & part 2
SLIDES USED IN THE PRESENTATION: pdf here

How do societies change? It has long been observed that capitalism develops in forty-to-sixty year cycles, bookended by great crashes and periods of stagnation. Technologies and relations of production are transformed along with modes of government and social reproduction. New patterns of trade and nternational relations emerge on the geopolitical level. Ten or fifteen years later, people look back and realize: “That was a turning point. The world is totally different now.”

Such a change has been experienced in living memory, with the crisis of the late sixties/early seventies that ushered in neoliberalism. What will happen now? By bringing together various strands of Marxist crisis-theory (the technological innovation school, the regulation approach, world-systems theory) it’s possible to show how a distinctly neoliberal society emerged from the political upheaval, long recession and monetary chaos of the sixties-seventies. Once we have identified the full range of neoliberal institutions, we can generate an analytical picture of the status quo around, say, 2005. And on that basis we can see what’s changing right now, in many different arenas. Who are the agents of social change? Could we intervene in some of those arenas while everything is still in flux? Why wait fifteen years to discover the solutions that the elites will have arranged for us? The idea of this lecture/workshop is to lay the groundwork for a strategic observatory of the still-unfolding crisis.

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The conclusion of our meeting at the Educational Forum of Occupy Chicago was that a process of research-action could be focused directly on the city of Chicago, with all its ongoing struggles. By participating in the concrete struggles and systematically mapping out the abstract forces at play in them, we could generate useful knowledge about the restructuring of society as a whole. Useful means the kind of knowledge that helps everyone to intervene more effectively. This would be a long-term project, with a preparatory period over the next few months and a fully active period next fall. Ideally it would lead to the creation of educational products that could be widely shared. The next meeting will be on May 6.

Anyone who is interested in collaborating on this project, feel free to contact me. For previous iterations of this project, see:

Three Crises Seminar

The above is the archive of a collaborative seminar, carried out at Mess Hall in Chicago, concerning the last three major political-economic crises of US and world society: the 1930s, the 1970s, and now. Here you will find written texts, recordings of the seminars, and full-text bibliographies.

Technopolitics Project

This is an open-source research platform, run by people in Vienna, where this inquiry into the processes of social change began.

Cartography of Excess

February 23, 2012

Bureau d’Études and Multiplicity

(March 2002)

This text (a veritable blast from the past) was published first in Springerin, then all over the place, and finally in my book Unleashing the Collective Phantoms. Reposted here for some aspiring cartographer friends in Chicago.

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Utopian ideas – like “Spaceship Earth” – are round, multidimensional, interrelated: their archetypal map is the Milky Way, the infinite constellations. But rational thinking is instrumental, linear, it distorts: and that’s exactly the problem with the Mercator map, the most common world projection. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, created a “Dymaxion map” to undo those distortions. First the earth becomes a geometric figure, an isocahedron: its twenty triangles are then disjointed and laid flat, so the land masses radiate from a nexus in the north, without splitting continents or enlarging the polar regions. Fuller based his politics on this map: at the ’67 World Expo in Montreal, in the dome of the U.S. pavilion, he wanted to lay out a vast Dymaxion projection, and animate it with the most up-to-date statistics, so visitors could watch the flow of resources across the earth – and identify the patterns, the inequalities, the most wasteful or efficient solutions. Delegations from different regions would meet for cooperative sessions, in a problem-solving process called the “World Peace Game.”1 The idea was simple: radical democracy. “Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”2

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EVENTWORK

February 17, 2012

The Fourfold Matrix
of Contemporary Social Movements

Published in the catalog of Living As Form. Dedicated to Graciela Carnevale.

Texto en español.

Art into life: Is there any more persistent utopia in the history of vanguard expressions?

Shedding its external forms, its inherited techniques, its specialized materials, art becomes a living gesture, rippling out across the sensible surface of humanity. It creates an ethos, a mythos, an intensely vibrant presence; it migrates from the pencil, the chisel or the brush into ways of doing and modes of being. From the German Romantics to the Beatnik poets, from the Dadaists to the Living Theater, this story has been told again and again, each time with a startling twist on the same underlying phrase. At stake is more than the search for stylistic renewal; it’s about transforming your everyday existence.

Theory into revolution: Is there any more ardent desire for the future of leftist thinking?

The fundamental demand of the thinkers and rioters of May ’68 was also “change life” (changer la vie). But from a revolutionary viewpoint, the consequences of intimate desire should be economic and structural. Situationist theory had no meaning without immediate communization. “Marx, Mao, Marcuse” was a slogan for the streets. The self-overcoming of art was understood as just one part of a program to vanquish class divides, transform labor relations and put alienated individuals back in touch with one another.

The ’60s were full of wild fantasies and unrealized potentials; yet significant experiments were undertaken, with consequences extending up to the present. Campus radicalism gave new life to educational alternatives, resulting in large-scale initiatives like the University Without Walls in the United States or the Open University in Britain. The counter-cultural use of hand-held video cameras led to radical media projects like Paper Tiger Television, Deep Dish TV and Indymedia. Politics itself went through a metamorphosis: autonomous Marxism gave rise to self-organized projects all across Europe, while affinity groups based on Quaker conceptions of direct democracy took deep root in the U.S., structuring the anti-nuclear movement, becoming professionalized in the NGOs of the ’80s, then surging back at full anarchist force in Seattle. Since the AIDS movements, activism regained urgency and seriousness, grappling with concrete and progressively more complex issues such as globalization and climate change. Yet, society still tends to absorb the transformations, to neutralize the inventions. The question is not how to aestheticize “living as form,” in order to display the results for contemplation in a museum. The question is how to change the forms in which we are living.

Social movements are vehicles for this metamorphosis. At times they generate historic events, like the occupation of public squares that unfolded across the world in 2011. Through the stoppage of “business as usual” they alter life paths, shift labor routines and career horizons along with laws and governments, and contribute to long-lasting philosophical and affective transfigurations. Yet despite their historic dimensions, the sources of social movements are intimate, aspirational: they grow out of small groups, they crystallize around what Guattari called “non-discursive, pathic knowledge.”1 Their capacity for sparking change is widely coveted in our era. Micro-movements in the form of trends, fashions, and crazes are continually ignited, channeled and fueled by public relations strategists, in order to instrumentalize the upwelling of social desire. Still grassroots groups, vanguard projects and intentional communities continue to take their own lives as raw material, inventing alternate futures and hoping to generate models, possibilities, and tools for others.

Absorbing all this historical experience, social movements have expanded to include at least four dimensions. Critical research is fundamental to today’s movements, which are always at grips with complex legal, scientific, and economic problems. Participatory art is vital to any group taking its issues to the streets, because it stresses a commitment to both representation and lived experience. Networked communications and strategies of mass-media penetration are another characteristic of contemporary movements, because ideas and directly embodied struggles just disappear without a megaphone. Finally, social movement politics consists in the collaborative coordination or “self-organization” of this whole set of practices, gathering forces, orchestrating efforts and helping to unleash events and to deal with their consequences. These different strands interweave, condense into gestures and events, and disperse again, creating the dynamics of the movement. A fourfold matrix replaces any single, easily definable initiative.

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How to Remember Mike Kelley

February 5, 2012

 

 

 

Here’s the tune. Amp it up on the edge of Bryce Canyon for a great outrageous artist! Or better yet, just leave some unidentifiable obstacle in the path of the State….

Ubu actually has the record here.

 

A PEOPLE’S PRELIMINARY HEARING ON MONSANTO

January 28, 2012

A popular inquest into the almost innumerable crimes of the chemical corporation and agribusiness giant, Monsanto. In Carbondale on Jan 28, 2012. Check it out at the blog of the Compass group/Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor, here.

Also check out the film by Marie-Monique Robin, The World According to Monsanto.

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Harcourt’s article on Chicago’s G8/NATO laws

January 21, 2012

“Outlawing dissent: Rahm Emanuel’s new regime”

by Bernard Harcourt

Occupy Chicago, Oct 15, 2011 – before the bust

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The reduction of American democracy to a façade punctured everywhere by states of exception is made painfully clear by the legislation just passed in the Windy City. The chill here is not just the snow.

 

It’s almost as if Rahm Emanuel was lifting a page from Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine – as if he was reading her account of Milton Friedman’s “Chicago Boys” as a cookbook recipe, rather than as the ominous episode that it was. In record time, Emanuel successfully exploited the fact that Chicago will host the upcoming G8 and Nato summit meetings to increase his police powers and extend police surveillance, to outsource city services and privatize financial gains, and to make permanent new limitations on political dissent. It all happened – very rapidly and without time for dissent – with the passage of rushed security and anti-protest measures adopted by the city council on 18 January 2012.

Sadly, we are all too familiar with the recipe by now: first, hype up and blow out of proportion a crisis (and if there isn’t a real crisis, as in Chicago, then create one), call in the heavy artillery and rapidly seize the opportunity to expand executive power, to redistribute wealth for private gain and to suppress political dissent. As Friedman wrote in Capitalism and Freedom in 1982 – and as Klein so eloquently describes in her book:

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function … until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

Today, it’s more than mere ideas that are lying around; for several decades now, and especially since 9/11, there are blueprints scattered all around us.

Step 1: hype a crisis or create one if there isn’t a real one available. Easily done:with images from London, Toronto, Genoa, and Seattle of the most violent anti-G8 protesters streaming on Fox News and repeated references to anarchists and rioters, the pump is primed. Rather than discuss the peaceful Occupy Chicago protests over the past three months, city officials and the media focus on what Fraternal Order of Police President Michael Shields calls “people who travel around the world as professional anarchists and rioters” and a “bunch of wild, anti-globalist anarchists“. The looming crisis headlines Rahm Emanuel’s draft legislation, now passed: “Whereas, Both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (“Nato”) and the Group of Eight (“G8″) summits will be held in the spring of 2012 in the City of Chicago” and “whereas, the Nato and G8 Summits continue to evolve in terms of the size and scope, thereby creating unanticipated or extraordinary support and security needs …” The crisis calls for immediate action.

Step 2: rapidly deploy excessive force. Again, easily done: Emanuel just gave himself the power to marshal and deputize – I kid you not, look at page 3 – the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and the entire United States Department of Justice (DOJ); as well as state police (the Illinois department of state police and the Illinois attorney general), county law enforcement (State’s Attorney of Cook County), and any “other law enforcement agencies determined by the superintendent of police to be necessary for the fulfillment of law enforcement functions”.

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For Dara, with love…

January 9, 2012

The sweetest and most generous person in the world.

Marcuse’s dialectics of liberation

January 4, 2012

Excerpt of “Liberation from the Affluent Society”
by Herbert Marcuse (1967)

We all know the fatal prejudice, practically from the beginning, in the Labour Movement against the intelligentsia as a catalyst of historical change. It is time to ask whether this prejudice against the intellectuals, and the inferiority complex of the intellectuals resulting from it, was not an essential factor in the development of the capitalist as well as the socialist societies: in the development and weakening of the opposition. The intellectuals usually went out to organize the others, to organize in the communities. They certainly did not use the potentiality they had to organize themselves, to organize among themselves not only on a regional, not only on a national, but on an international level. That is, in my view, today one of the most urgent tasks.

Can we say that the intelligentsia is the agent of historical change? Can we say that the intelligentsia today is a revolutionary class? The answer I would give is: No, we cannot say that. But we can say, and I think we must say, that the intelligentsia has a decisive preparatory function, not more; and I suggest that this is plenty. By itself it is not and cannot be a revolutionary class, but it can become the catalyst, and it has a preparatory function – certainly not for the first time, that is in fact the way all revolution starts – but more, perhaps, today than ever before. Because – and for this too we have a very material and very concrete basis – it is from this group that the holders of decisive positions in the productive process will be recruited, in the future even more than hitherto. I refer to what we may call the increasingly scientific character of the material process of production, by virtue of which the role of the intelligentsia changes. It is the group from which the decisive holders of decisive positions will be recruited: scientists, researchers, technicians, engineers, even psychologists – because psychology will continue to be a socially necessary instrument, either of servitude or of liberation.

This class, this intelligentsia has been called the new working class. I believe this term is at best premature. Its members are – and this we should not forget – today the pet beneficiaries of the established system. But they are also at the very source of the glaring contradictions between the liberating capacity of science and its repressive and enslaving use. To activate the repressed and manipulated contradiction, to make it operate as a catalyst of change, that is one of the main tasks of the opposition today. It remains and must remain a political task.

Education is our job, but education in a new sense. Being theory as well as practice, political practice, education today is more than discussion, more than teaching and learning and writing. Unless and until it goes beyond the classroom, until and unless it goes beyond the college, the school, the university, it will remain powerless. Education today must involve the mind and the body, reason and imagination, the intellectual and the instinctual needs, because our entire existence has become the subject/object of politics, of social engineering. I emphasize, it is not a question of making the schools and universities, of making the educational system political. The educational system is political already. I need only remind you of the incredible degree to which (I am speaking of the United States) universities are involved in huge research grants (the nature of which you know in many cases) by the government and the various quasi-governmental agencies.

The educational system is political, so it is not we who want to politicize the educational system. What we want is a counter-policy against the established policy. And in this sense we must meet this society on its own ground of total mobilization. We must confront indoctrination in servitude with indoctrination in freedom. We must each of us generate in ourselves, and try to generate in others, the instinctual need for a life without fear, without brutality, and without stupidity. And we must see that we can generate the instinctual and intellectual revulsion against the values of an affluence which spreads aggressiveness and suppression throughout the world.

Profanity and the Financial Markets

January 2, 2012

A User’s Guide to Closing the Casino

Tahrir by night

This text concludes the Three Crises series with an exploration of the collapsing Western middle classes, our entanglement in finance capital, our relations to the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, our inexorable proletarianization and revolutionary potentials. Happy New Year, gentle reader. De te fabula narratur.

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I want to begin, not with a curse but with a very beautiful convergence, one that is widely held to be real, but shrouded in mystery for millions of people. I’m talking about the “movement of the squares” unfolding on both sides of the North/South divide. And here’s the question: What is the hidden link between the middle-class and precarious movements against the dictates of finance capital – Occupy Wall Street and the European Indignados – and the far more perilous struggles to end dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East? What relationship could possibly be sustained between the regions that concentrate global wealth and those from which labor, resources and interest payments are relentlessly extracted?

Immanuel Wallerstein claims that the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa pit two historical groups against each other. One he calls the “1968 current,” which consists of non-violent, directly democratic grassroots movements that challenge all forms of exclusion and abuses of power, in the name of an equality that includes respect for fundamental differences. The other group consists of people who oppose such movements and seek in whatever way to capture, contain and neutralize them – and in North Africa and the Middle East, that chiefly means holders of oil wealth and US-backed dictators. For Wallerstein, today’s uprisings are a continuation, after decades of latency, of “the world-revolution of 1968,” which lasted by his account from 1966 to 1970.1

If this is true, then the people out in the streets today at least share a history. Because the world-revolution of 1968 also took place in Europe and in the United States, where it revolved crucially around solidarity and direct cooperation between Northern middle-class students and intellectuals and oppressed people in the South – which in the US meant not only Vietnam and Latin America, but also the South of our own country. Whites went to Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi to work with the civil rights movement. Oppressed minority groups, especially the Black Panthers, read Frantz Fanon and other anti-colonial thinkers, and came to designate themselves as Third World peoples. The New Left sought to express its support for the Vietnamese revolutionaries by “bringing the war back home.” A vast, unruly and often failed experiment in cross-class, cross-border collaboration defined the “1968 current.” But is this historical memory enough to explain the convergence of direct-democratic practices in the movement of the squares?

I don’t think it is. To uncover the more complex grounds on which we meet, it’s necessary to look back to the reactionary surge that followed 1968, ultimately giving rise to neoliberalism. It began in the US with the election of Richard Nixon. He ran on a law-and-order platform, and his administration crushed domestic dissidents with covert operations, legislated “spatial deconcentration” programs for inner-city gentrification, invented SWAT teams for attacks on the ghettos, launched the prison-industrial complex and offered support to the military regime of Pinochet in Chile, opening the door to the coordinated repression of the Latin American left by Operation Condor in the later 1970s. Nixon also presided over the settlement of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the OPEC embargo. That led on the one hand to the US stabilization of Egypt (with military aid formalized in 1979 as part of the Camp David accords), and on the other, to the new petroleum prices and the introduction of a capital circuit linking Western banks, engineering firms and armament makers to the most oppressive oil-exporting regimes. The whole process cemented the position of authoritarian leaders in the Arab world and provided the cash for a major round of predatory lending to developing countries across the planet. The dictators that have recently fallen in North Africa and the Middle East date from this period. Thus both domestically and internationally, the 1970s saw the installation of a police and military order that sought, and still seeks, to capture and contain the “1968 current.”

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CULTURE BEYOND OIL

December 15, 2011

Not If But When

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The new booklet by Platform London, entitled “Not If But When: Culture Beyond Oil,” is available for free download here. For well over a decade this art-activist group has been informing the public of the vast ecological damage attendant on the operations of the two British oil majors, BP and Shell. Platform’s recent campaigns have focused on BP’s sponsorship of the arts – what you might call “culture washing.” See the video above for a response!

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The secret is out: less than 1 percent of our planet’s population is destroying our world for their profit.

This shocking fact has been known for as long as any thinking person can remember. It is the chief characteristic of the political-economic system known as neoliberalism. But now something has changed. This truth can be stated in public.

On the street and in the media, it can now be openly said that we have a ruling class, with all the abuses of power that the very existence of such a class entails. The disaster of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, like the more recent Chevron oil spill off the coast of Brazil, counts among those abuses.

Is it not time to begin asking what other truths have remained unspeakable? Here is one of the most obvious:

Our consent is vital to the rule of the 1 percent.

In every arena of daily life, particularly where knowledgeable bodies gather, the 1 percent disburses huge sums of money in the form of what we may as well call propaganda, in order to ensure the continuity of their rule. They spend billions of dollars to construct, in our  heads and hearts, what they call “the social license to operate.” This is the function of elite sponsorship of the arts. Shall we not learn to say that in public too?

Are Shakespeare and Leonardo going to matter when the earth has been ruined by climate change? Is French impressionism beautiful when people are starving in the street? Do you want your art to become a tool of the corporate elites?

If the answer is no, then Platform London has a great suggestion:

Withdraw your support from the sponsorship of the 1 percent.

The social movements that have appeared across the world this year give courage to everyone. They encourage us to speak up. To ask why things must be done in the way they are done today.

Platform London is one of my great inspirations. Check it out. Let’s stop the pollution of our planet. Let’s end the rule of the 1 percent.

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SIGN AGAINST UC DAVIS CHANCELLOR

November 20, 2011

Nathan Brown socks it to Linda Katehi

Watch the police brutalize the students and retreat in shame.

Then please sign the petition here.

18 November 2011

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:

1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today

2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality

3) to demand your immediate resignation

Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

What happened next?

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

Read the rest of this entry »

This won’t all end so easily Mr Bloomberg

November 15, 2011

Updates

    * 3:36 a.m. Kitchen tent reported teargassed. Police moving in with zip cuffs.
    * 3:33 a.m. Bulldozers moving in
    * 3:16 a.m. Occupiers linking arms around riot police
    * 3:15 a.m. NYPD destroying personal items. Occupiers prevented from leaving with their possessions.
    * 3:13 a.m. NYPD deploying sound cannon
    * 3:08 a.m. heard on livestream: “they’re bringing in the hoses.”
    * 3:05 a.m. NYPD cutting down trees in Liberty Square
    * 2:55 a.m. NYC council-member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head.
    * 2:44 a.m. Defiant occupiers barricaded Liberty Square kitchen
    * 2:44 a.m. NYPD destroys OWS Library. 5,000 donated books in dumpster.
    * 2:42 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge confirmed closed
    * 2:38 a.m. 400-500 marching north to Foley Square
    * 2:32 a.m. All subways but R shut down
    * 2:29 a.m. Press helicopters evicted from airspace. NYTimes reporter arrested.
    * 2:22 a.m. Frontpage coverage from New York Times
    * 2:15 a.m. Occupiers who have been dispersed are regrouping at Foley Square
    * 2:10 a.m. Press barred from entering Liberty Square
    * 2:07 a.m. Pepper spray deployed — reports of at least one reporter sprayed
    * 2:03 a.m. Massive Police Presence at Canal and Broadway
    * 1:43 a.m. Helicopters overhead.
    * 1:38 a.m. Unconfirmed reports of snipers on rooftops.
    * 1:34 a.m. CBS News Helicopter Livestream
    * 1:27 a.m. Unconfirmed reports that police are planning to sweep everyone.
    * 1:20 a.m. Subway stops are closed.
    * 1:20 a.m. Brooklyn bridge is closed.
    * 1:20 a.m. Occupiers chanting “This is what a police state looks like.”
    * 1:20 a.m. Police are in riot gear.
    * 1:20 a.m. Police are bringing in bulldozers.

We Will Reoccupy!

This is what American Education looks like

November 14, 2011

Police brutalize UC Berkeley students on November 9

Peacefully and non-violently, the students attempted to set up an Occupy Wall St encampment on Sproul Plaza, right exactly where (among so many others) Mario Savio spoke in the 1960s. And look at how odious the machine is today! I sent the following letter to the despicable Chancellor Birgeneau who should resign now, both for the indignity of this violence and for his own lack of any minimal respect for the democracy which these students have somehow learned to practice, despite him and his peers: the 1% who rule us and treat us like dogs.

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Chancellor Birgeneau -

As a native Californian and UC Berkeley PhD graduate, I too have a stake in UCB. I follow closely what happens there. Today I read the following statement that you made to the extended UCB community:

“It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.  By contrast, some of the protesters chose to be arrested peacefully; they were told to leave their tents, informed that they would be arrested if they did not, and indicated their intention to be arrested. They did not resist arrest or try physically to obstruct the police officers’ efforts to remove the tent.  These protesters were acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, and we honor them.”

This is ONE OF THE MOST HYPOCRITICAL STATEMENTS  I have ever read. The idea that linking arms is not non-violent civil disobedience flies so far in the face of common sense that it is sufficient to condemn you entirely as an administrator. Far from honoring anyone, you have cast immense shame on yourself and have committed a physical and verbal assault every aspiration and ideal that the people of California have invested in OUR university.

In your actions one clearly sees that you choose to represent and enact a police state rather than a community of democratic debate. If you believe that the civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King is reducible to blind obedience to the orders of men wielding clubs, then you have severely misunderstood the meaning and power of the civic philosophies which have been elaborated and taught within OUR public university. Such a profound lack of understanding disqualifies you from the position you hold, and I call on you to step down from it. No other action could remove the shame of the statement you have made.

In the absence of your immediate resignation, I sincerely hope that one day soon I will have a chance to link arms along with thousands or tens of thousands of others to protest the tyranny that your administration manifests.

Brian Holmes

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