The Circus

Madnesses en masse I witnessed on the streets of Prague, in the most bizarre of political protests – though one which may catch on. I believe it demonstrates not only anarchist principles, but action, and on a large scale.  The public of Prague had a glimpse of an alternate political method.  This is an account of the joyous approach to politics in the Czech capital.

 

17th November, the anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, and solemnity finds its expression in the candles placed beneath the statue of King Wenceslas upon whose square commemorations have been taking place throughout the day. Looking down from here, perhaps in more ways than one, the foot of the boulevard boasts a more Dionysian spectacle.

A congregation of papier-mâché grotesques is gathered, ungainly costumes mounted on shoulders and covering faces loom over the public. They are elaborate, colourful and cryptic. Symbolism draws the eye and the hotdog-eating crowds. Strolling amongst them, holidaying citizens curiously, if a little apprehensively, accept proffered flyers, leaflets, petitions, posters. Children fearlessly gambol and examine – a towering bear with the face of Mr Putin is a favourite, its meaning lost on them, but becoming clear to their parents. This was a political rally, but unlike any I or they had witnessed. Continue reading

ANTI-MAXIMUS PROTESTS MARCH 2ND

Protests will be held Britain-wide on March 2nd to denounce US based company Maximus and its takeover of the Work Capability Assessment, previously run by the French IT company ATOS.   In Edinburgh demonstrators are set to descend on the Maximus Assessment Centre in Argyle House on Lady Lawson Street from 1pm onwards on Monday. The day of action has been called by Disabled People Against The Cuts (DPAC), disability rights organisation Black Triangle,  Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP), the Industrial Workers of the World and other groups, who are all demanding the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) be scrapped.  The WCA is the current test which determines if claimants are awarded the disability benefit  Employment and Support Allowance. Previous administration of the Work Capability Assessment by ATOS proved controversial. ATOS was frequently accused of incompetence with assessors having no accredited medical training and the process by which they assess claimants repeatedly being described as “unfair” and “cruel”. Very often these tests amount to little more than a box ticking exercise for the assessor with little consideration taken of the complexity of the claimants often multi-faceted medical history.

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From the Land of Proudhon, vol. 4

Karl Marx: Not Infallible

The French Marxist philosopher Étienne Balibar, a pupil of Louis Althuser, published in 1993 The Philosophy of Marx. This text is now, after twenty years, republished. In a new introduction, he asks”: what is the purpose of the re-published book? Balibar says ‘in order to understand Marx in the 21st century he should be read, not as a monument to the past, but like an actual author.’

 

Balibar assumes that the actuality corresponds to the fact, that the questions posed by Marx rest in fundamental value to the philosophy and concepts he develops. The importance of his philosophy is greater than ever, declares Balibar. I doubt that highly. Par example it is not surprising that one hears repeatedly, that a new Marx would have to stand up. This is not surprising because Karl Marx proved to be fallible in many ways.

 

The thing which disturbs me is that Balibar, in his text from 1993, highlights the discomfort of Marx on the anarchists like Stirner and Proudhon, without commenting on it (which I was not expecting him to do, but after twenty years reconsidering nothing is impossible…). Apparently Balibar still requires pushing Marx in that way to show his superiority. In his criticism, especially of anarchists, Marx has the self-styled aura of infallibility, while he worriedly sneered about them. He indeed called the individualist anarchist Max Stirner (1806-1856) ‘Saint Max’. Did he read him? Presumably. From this assumption, it can be concluded that he was in bad faith where he spoke about him as ‘Saint Max’. If there is somebody who has dismantled religion, it is Stirner. Continue reading

Punk attitude, riot grrrl aesthetic, queer feminist rage… meet Not Right

In October 2014 activists, academics and left wing, feminist punk band Not Right released ‘Your Turn’ an album dealing with political, social, cultural and gender issues. The album was described by punx.co.uk as ‘uncompromising’ and a ‘reality check’ with echoes of Crass and Action Pact (1) so I was excited when they kindly agreed to an interview.

Photo: Liz Ewbank

 

You are all academics -what made you decide to form a punk band? 

Snowy: Kirsty told me to. At Rock It March 2011, I bumped into Kirsty and at some point she asked ‘Do you play in a ska band?’ ‘Yes’ ‘So you’ve got a decent sense of rhythm?’ ‘Yeah’ ‘Great you can play drums in my new band’. That’s my band genesis story. I borrowed a pair of sticks from a colleague who didn’t play anymore – booked a couple of practice sessions and tried to ignore the embarrassment of ‘Oh no everyone will hear me fuck up’. After that I was(n’t) ready for our first band practice! Continue reading

NEWS FROM CORPORATE WATCH

The latest offering from Corporate Watch is now available to buy from Freedom Bookshop! Called ‘False Dilemmas: A Critical Guide to the Eurozone Crisis’, it helpfully explains the false narrative built around debt and austerity in Europe. It also provides… Continue reading

2015: A Time for Outrage?

Two years have passed since one of the great political and social thinkers of our time departed this world.

On 26 February 2013 Stephane Hessel died at the age of 95. Hessel enjoyed a long life, from his birth in Berlin to his final breath in Paris, where one of his last works “Indignez-Vous!” (Time For Outrage) was published.

The small book holds a large punch and it came to life from a fiery speech Hessel gave in 2008 commemorating the French resistance. The 37 page book was translated into many languages and emerged during a time when the occupy movement was breaking out of social networks and onto the streets, it was a time when the Arab spring was spreading across the middle east, a time when the Sarkozy presidency was coming to an end and Greece was in the throes of social and economic upheaval.

“Indignez-Vous” the short yet fierce little book showed the resilient spirit of Hessel who penned the work at the age of 92. The resistance veteran strived to resurrect the resistance sprit for this generation not only in France but across Europe and further a field. Continue reading

The Language Games of Power

An important tool, not just for academic anarchists, but for any individual who wishes to think critically about what is presented to them by political elites, is what is known as the genealogical approach. A ‘genealogy’ is just an obtuse and elitist word which roughly means ‘a history of words, or terms and their use’, and it’s a brilliant way of undermining the machinations of political operators.

As the critical theorist James Tully notes, you ‘begin by questioning whether the inherited languages of description and reflection are adequate to the task’. Nowhere is the lack of discursive options more prevalent in British political life then the discussions surrounding the economy and around immigration; two clear preoccupations of the political elite. When it comes to the economy, we are hearing the same Thatcherite cries as before- TINA (‘there is no alternative!), and the language of the economy is tied down to a limited number of possibilities. We must tackle the deficit, how do we tackle the deficit, how much of the public sector do we sell off to our friends, how many tax breaks do we offer millionaires, how many pensions do we undermine, how many people on the breadline do we deprive of their dignity before we can no longer get away with it? When it comes to oppositional forces, aside from the quite deliberately under-interviewed and underexposed Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, the economic argument is about deficit reduction, what to cut, to what extent and for how long. The language of neoliberalism is so pervasive that even centre-right Keynesians have been excluded from the narrow mindset. Continue reading

CALL OUT FOR ANTI-FASCISTS AGAINST THE EDL IN DUDLEY, FEB 7th 2015

 

On the 7th February 2015, the English Defense League will be coming out in their hordes to rally in Dudley, capitalising on the recent shootings at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

A recent post on the EDL event… Continue reading

An Afterlife to Capitalism?

 

After a recent conversation with friends regarding the future of religion in a post-revolutionary setting, I wanted to write this article to address some of the issues I have, even as an atheist, with the abolitionist narrative of religion and its mindset which still remains as colonialist as it did a century ago, with modern anti-theists merely replicating Christian civilising missionaries.

I don’t often like to speculate on the utopian fantasies of post-revolution but there are moments within radical conversations that one needs to at least construct a basic framework in order to explore further their own ideas.

My friend doesn’t see religion as compatible with anarchism. They say that the hierarchy of God over man is contradictory. They say that religion is oppressive. They say that it should be abolished, that their revolutionary future can have no space for religion or the religious. They quote Marx’s critique of religion as an ‘opiate of the masses’ and I have to stop them there for a moment because that line is so intolerably misquoted. The full quote, we must always remember, is this: Continue reading

A change in direction

After 35 years of neoliberal economics working class Britain is not doing well.  A recently published report shows that in 2011 nine out of the ten poorest regions in North West EU countries were in Britain (1). The figures for 2009-10 in the UNICEF report ‘Child well-being in rich countries-a comparative overview’ puts Britain fourteenth out of the twenty nine ‘most advanced economies’ (2). That doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that is pretty much last place out of NW European countries with a similar post WWII experience. Also reported this summer was that out of the twenty eight EU countries the UK comes in twenty sixth in terms of loneliness- that is not having someone you could turn to and rely on in a crisis (3). After three decades of what Harvey termed the economics of class war (4) the British working class is atomised, alienated, lonely, precarious and increasingly skint. We live in an ill society that generates ill people. Studies show that individuals are happier within societies that are more equal — wide disparities of income and wealth create societies that are less happy and more ill at ease. The UK has high rates of inequality, one of the consequences being the prevalence of mental illness and the use of anti-depressants. In a society marked by inequality, exploitation and environmental degradation people are struggling with unease and alienation and a lack of an alternative to ‘what is’. Continue reading