Saturday, February 11, 2012

Anniversary

This day in history:
Nelson Mandela is released from prison after spending 27 years behind bars.
February 11, 1990 - 22 years ago today.
Via

See also, February 11, 1990 over at Africa is a Country, which gives the reader an idea of what the ANC's century-long history is about, and a bit of an idea of a time when the ANC were truly fighting the good fight.

This bears repeating

t at Pink Scare sez:
Finally, direct participation of the masses in intra-movement democracy is essential because of the collective learning process that it makes possible. This brings us to the question of how consciousness changes and how people are radicalized.

According to some, the best way to radicalize people is through provocative, small-scale actions that suddenly shake ordinary people from their "dogmatic slumbers". By witnessing daring examples of the "propaganda of the deed", people are radicalized and drawn into participation in struggle.

Now, I think it would be abstract and unhelpful to say that small-scale, bold actions have no progressive effect on consciousness. Everything depends on the form and content of the action and the context in which it occurs. But if there are examples of successful political interventions of this kind, there is also a long list of examples in which this approach resulted in spectacular failure. And even the most successful examples of the "propaganda of the deed" pale in comparison with the radicalizing effect of direct participation in collective struggles against the 1%. People are radicalized in the course of actively fighting back in concert with others. In a society in which people are bombarded everywhere they turn by advertisements and injunctions to buy this or that, it is unreasonable to expect that a mere slogan or image will be enough to win people to joining the fight for their own liberation. Drawing people into participating in struggle is the key to changing consciousness.

But how are people drawn into mass action and participation in struggle? Worsening material conditions and discussion/direct-engagement are essential here. Peoples daily lives are being shaken by brutal austerity from above, worsening living standards for the 99%, mass layoffs and unemployment, foreclosures and school closings, etc. They don't need a small clique to tell them that something is wrong with society. What they need is someone to engage them critically, to talk to them, to challenge them in discussion to link arms with others in struggle. Radicals need to talk to people in their own communities, to meet them half-way and engage them directly. This is all the more important if the Occupy movement is going to successfully collaborate and integrate itself with communities that face racial oppression, residential segregation and police intimidation. It's not enough to pull off creative political stunts that, in effect, fly the flag and demand that people rally to it. Direct political discussion with the 99% is essential to building mass movements.

Importantly, political discussion has to begin from where people's heads are at; if it abstractly sweeps in from elsewhere it is unlikely to get any traction. What's more, this dialogue has to draw on people's concrete experiences. Take the question of the role of the police. It would have been abstract to aggressively scold and berate new activists who were sanguine about the police in the early days of the movement. To be sure, raising objections to their attitudes toward the police was necessary, even at the beginning, because the cops never have been, and never will be, on our side. But things have changed drastically since then. After all of the repression from the police that the movement has faced, radicals are now very well-positioned to draw on those people's experience in arguing that the cops aren't on our side. Without a democratic forum for debate and dialogue that can draw on the collective experience of the movement, we can't expect to win fellow occupiers to the perspective that the police aren't a force for social justice. People's views are not set it stone; they are liable to change rather quickly on the basis of political debate and concrete experience through struggle. There's no substitute for engaging people in critical political dialogue in a way that draws on their own experience and concerns.

Now, critical dialogue doesn't mean that activists should leave people's existing views intact or simply pander to what they already think. This would be conservative and ultimately antithetical to the entire spirit of activism itself. Activists try to change the world, not merely interpret it as it is. Critical discussion and dialogue should be a combination of listening to people's concerns and questions, on the one hand, and challenging them to be more militant and active on the other. In the context of escalating attacks on the 99% from above, people's consciousness can develop extremely quickly. Seeing others engaged in mass struggles is a radicalizing force as well, which is all the more reason to build a mass, vigorously democratic movement from below.

This kind of critical discussion and debate can only flourish in the context of a democratic mass movement. If everyone simply does their own thing, without discussing among one another which way forward is best for all, these discussions may never transpire. If some groups, under the guise of a "diversity of tactics", simply opt out of democratic deliberation when they feel they won't get their way, this thwarts the capacity of the movement debate out and discuss tactics effectively. As a result, we can't generalize from each other's experience or learn from each other's mistakes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

On Chris Hedges' recent column: some reaction

Much of what might be said about Chris Hedges' recent column blaming the "Black Bloc" for Occupy's real or imagined woes has already been aptly handled elsewhere.

American Leftist: Doctor Hedges Misdiagnoses the Decline of Occupy

Pink Scare: Against Hedges on the Black Bloc

The Wild Wild Left: Perspectives On Hedge's "Cancer in Occupy"

i cite: Interview With Chris Hedges About Black Bloc | Truthout, David Graeber: Concerning the Violent Peace Police. A Response to Chris Hedges (nplusone), and To Be Fair, He Is a Journalist: A Short Response to Chris Hedges on the Black Bloc | Revolution by the Book : The AK Press Blog

That should cover enough of the territory, I would say. Personally, I tend to be pretty agnostic with regard to the tactics used in any resistance effort. I do find it rather bourgeois to condemn acts of counterviolence (a term I am borrowing from the German New Left of the late 1960s) or even nonviolent direct action given that the capitalist system itself is inherently structurally violent. To be passive to the point of not resisting at all has been practically suicidal for the Left. We should know that already.

Perhaps I'll say more if time permits. If not, the links above should provide a useful enough starting point. I think they'll more than adequately clear up a few misconceptions that Hedges and his less critical followers seem to have. In the meantime remember that "divide and conquer" is the enemy - especially in these turbulent times.

In solidarity.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quotable

The important thing is for the people to realise through their struggle that the overthrow of a government is not sufficient. The bourgeois political system has reserves … What is important is to overthrow the class which is in power, because in that case you can talk not merely about a people’s government but about a people’s power. … What is important is for the people to take into their hands the economy of the country namely the means of production, the monopolies, and the businesses. Any other solution would provide breathing space to the bourgeois political system.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE), February 6, 2012 (via fuckyeahmarxismleninism)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Anyone remember The Babymen?


About the time I was wrapping my head around Uncarved Block, the final release by Flux (formerly Flux of Pink Indians) on the fledgling One Little Indian label, I also had the chance to sample the work of some of their label mates. One of those bands was called The Babymen. Of course I have no idea what happened to my old recordings. However, I did find a Myspace page devoted to them and had a chance to re-hear their one EP, For King Willy. As the page's bio says:
These are four tracks by the legendary Babymen, originally concieved in 1982, but not committed to record until the summer of 1986. This gap would almost certainly have been longer, perhaps even indefinate, had it not been for the sterling efforts of 'Flux' and the 'One little indian' record label, in encouraging The Babymen to record, and for the assistance of The D.C.L. during the recording.

The tracks were recorded during the week 6th-13th July 1986, on an eight track machine at Workshop Studios and were engineered by David Morris, whose patient effort was another important factor in the completion of this work.

As for the tracks themselves, the title track 'For King Willy' is a rousing gothic chant and although medieval in spirit, features some moody, reverberating electric guitar, thudding drums and spirited harpsichord. It's companion track 'The Legend Of The Baby Men' opens quietly, but develops into a disturbing baroque rumble, a meshing together of harpsichord, trumpet fanfares and a heady crescendo of distorted 'whiplash' electric guitar, which was originally recorded on a telephone answering machine and then transferred to this recording. Together with a spoken account of the history of The Babymen, it produces an awesome effect. These two pieces account for side one of the disc.

Side two opens in a lighter vein and finds The Babymen romping through 'March Of The Baby Men', a piece dominated by pounding harpsichord and bass guitar, which also features the clarinet of the legendary Svoor Naan. The mood becomes sombre for 'Think Of Honour And Of Wealth' - a haunting piece, conjouring images of moorland battlefields after the fray, with the wind howling and with ghostly voices cutting through the air.

This then is the best of The Babymen so far, four excellent and exciting pieces of music.

Will they ever record again? I hope so.

Robert Winterman.

Taken from the original slevenotes for 'For King Willy' 
The anarchopunk scene was rather noteworthy for its openness to experimentation, especially during its waning days in the mid-to-late 1980s. Bands like The Babymen were part of its colorful history. The Medieval and experimental vibe that one gets from their few recorded tracks would have easily led listeners at the time to ask, "is this really punk?" I'd probably have responded: "Does it really matter? This shit is interesting." Anyway, check out the site, listen to some music, and enjoy a blast from an interesting time in music history.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quotable

“The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?” 

Bob Marley (born Feb 6, 1945)

Blog I'm Feeling

Consider this an installment in the continuing B.A.D celebration:

Pere Lebrun (from the blogroll of the regrettably defunct Renegade Eye)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Feeling B.A.D. Yet?

Good news: so is skippy. If you don't know what B.A.D. is, skippy provides a nice summary of its history and how it operates as a tradition - at least on the left/liberal sides of blogtopia (a term skippy also coined, of course). Also check out skippy the bush kangaroo throughout the next day (or two or three) to see who else is celebrating Blogroll Amnesty Day.