Pier Paolo Pasolini said his first films were inspired by Antonio Gramsci, the founder and one-time leader of the Italian Communist Party.
To Pasolini, Gramsci was the ‘greatest Marxist theoretician in all Italy,’ who wanted popular art to be aimed at an “ideal people.”
But by the 1960s, this “ideal people” had been turned by capitalism into consumers—a culture of mass consumption, where works of art and politics had little or no value.
It was then that Pasolini instinctively rejected the idea of making films for mass consumption, and instead opted for a more personal and political film-making.
Based on Montaigne’s idea that ‘one does not really know a person until he has died,’ Philo Bregstein’s documentary Whoever Says The Truth Shall Die—A Film About Pier Paolo Pasolini offers a fascinating look at the life, artistic ambitions and political vision of the poet, writer and controversial film director.
The collective behind Cosmarxpolitan describe themselves as “Smug college students” with too much time on their hands.
General Secretary of Cosmarxpolitan is Clara, who also blogs at That Girl Mag, and collaborates with The Central Committee of People’s Commissars (Andrew, Ken, Lucas, Mark, and Nicole) to produce these witty and amusing fake Cosmarxpolitan covers. As explained on the site’s FAQ:
The intention of Cosmarxpolitan is to ridicule the awful advice and backwards attitudes of magazines targeted at women; not to poke fun at those who suffered under communist rulers.
For those of you who think that we promote stereotypes that marginalize certain groups and privilege a deeply distorted narrative, it’s because we’re doing our best to channel Cosmo.
Only one of the collective is a Marxist (Ken), the rest are “just bourgeois scum, to varying degrees,” who hope that (once revolution comes) they will be “stripped of the chains of oppression, (and having other things to do), article writing will flourish.”
For twenty-years, artist John Butler has been the driving talent behind an incredible array of short animated films and science-fiction series. As one half of the Butler Brothers, John has produced, written and animated original, speculative fictions that examine the nature of our relationship with Government, Military and Corporations through technology.
Animations such as Eden, The Ethical Governor, T.R.I.A.G.E. and Unmanned have reinforced John’s dystopian view of the world, where technology is primarily developed as a means of control, war and exploitation.
‘I don’t think we’re doomed,’ says Butler, ‘But we are stuck with it. I think the self checkouts in supermarkets indicate where we are going, towards a cybernetic transaction space. They should give us a discount since we’re doing all the work now.’
Butler’s latest animation Acrohym is a satirical ‘song of praise’ to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency):
...the most exciting arts commissioning agency in the world today.
Acrohym stands for ‘Advanced, Central, Research, Organization, High-Yield, Markets.’ The kind of buzz words promoted by PR reps and technocrats, who are currently destroying language and democracy.
Butler is fascinated by this and the way in which organizations like DARPA, have become like art/science patrons developing new technologies for the military, while at the same time creating their own language.
‘I liked the idea that DARPA seemed to think of cool acronyms first and work backwards from that. Things like the FANG (Fast, Adaptble, Next-Generation Ground vehicle) challenge, the Triple Target Terminator (T3) and the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition ( MAHEM). They ruthlessly torture language to create a new form of technocratic poetry.
‘I think weapons design attracts the brightest minds and can draw on limitless funding, so it’s no wonder they make such fascinating stuff. It is an art form of sorts, increasingly so, as the systems become more baroque and dysfunctional, like architectural follies.
‘Form Follows Funding is the first Law of Procurement.
‘I think Defense is the seedbed of all research, but it eventually trickles down to the civil sphere. If private enterprise had created the internet, it would be a lot of bike couriers with USB sticks. Only a military project could have had such a long range investment strategy.’
John is working on his next project, but I wanted to know when he would be makinga full length feature film?
‘As soon as I’ve secured Ministry of Defense funding.’
A rare and brief interview with Pier Paolo Pasolini on the set of his notorious film version of De Sade’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. As ever, Pasolini’s is uncompromising in his views of film-making and politics, which are still relevant today.
There is a lot of sex in it (Salò), rather towards Sado-Masochism, which has a very specific function - that is to reduce the human body to a saleable commodity. It represents what power does to the human being, to the human body.
All my films start from a formal idea, which I feel I must do. It is an idea I have of the kind of film it must be. It cannot be expressed in words, you either understand it or you don’t. When I make a film, it because I suddenly have an inspiration about the form of that particular subject must take. That is the essence of the film.
As I shoot this film, I already have it edited in my mind. Therefore, I expect a greater professional ability from my actors. So, this film I’m using 4 or 5 professional actors. But even the ones I have collected from the streets, I use them almost as if they were professional actors. The lines have to be said properly, the way they were written, and all in one take. They must have the correct facial expression from the beginning to the end of the shot, etc etc.
My need to make this film also came from the fact I particularly hate the leaders of the day. Each one of us hates with particular vehemence the powers to which he is forced to submit. So, I hate the powers of today. It is a power that manipulates people just as it did at the time of Himmler or Hitler.
I don’t think the young people of today will understand this film. I have no illusions about my ability to influence young people. It is impossible to create a cultural relationship with them, because they are living with totally new values, with which the old values cannot be compared.
I don’t believe we shall ever again have any form of society in which men will be free. One should not hope for it. One should not hope for anything. Hope is invented by politicians to keep the electorate happy.
I’ve been looking for a full set of the 1978 board game, Class Struggle, for years. While I hear it’s actually really boring to play, the camp value is undeniable. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find one with nothing missing, and we cannot stand for a piecemeal revolution! From the box:
To prepare for life in capitalist America - An educational game for kids from 8 to 80.
This game is a vehicle for instructing students (there is a classroom section in the rules) on why Marxism is superior. The Workers move around a board while trying to survive against the Capitalist who control everything. As the Workers unite they take power from the Capitalist players but if they do not succeed in uniting the Capitalist will win.
Class Struggle reflects the real struggle between the classes in our society.
THE OBJECT OF THE GAME IS TO WIN THE REVOLUTION . . .
Until then, classes—represented by different players—advance around the board, making and breaking alliances, and picking up strengths and weaknesses that determine the outcome of the elections and general strikes which occur along the way.
A workers’ political party, you say?!?
An ad for the German version
Italian version of the game, with deceptively kind-looking capitalist / imperialist pig-dog, Jimmy Carter
When Hugh MacDiarmid died in 1978, his fellow poet Norman MacCaig suggested Scotland commemorate the great man’s passing by holding 3 minute’s pandemonium. It was typical of MacCaig’s caustic wit, but his suggestion did capture something of the unquantifiable enormity of MacDiarmid’s importance on Scottish culture, politics, literature and life during the twentieth century.
Hugh MacDiarmid is perhaps best described by a line from his greatest poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926), in which he wrote:
‘I’ll ha’e nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur
Extremes meet - it’s the only way I ken
To dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt
That damns the vast majority o’ men.
It explains the contradictory elements that merged to make him a poet.
Born Christopher Murray Grieve, on August 11, 1892, he changed his name to the more Scottish sounding Hugh MacDiarmid to publish his poetry. He was a Modernist poet who wrote in Scots vernacular. One might expect this choice of language to make his poetry parochial, but MacDiarmid was a poet of international ambition and standing, who was recognized as an equal with T. S. Eliot, Boris Pasternak and W. H. Auden.
In politics, MacDiarmid had been one of the co-founder’s of the National Party for Scotland in 1928, but was ejected when he moved towards Communism. He was then ejected from the Communist Party for his “nationalist deviation.” He maintained a Nationalist - in favor of an independent Scotland - and a Communist throughout his life.
As literature scholar and writer Kenneth Butlay notes, MacDiarmid was:
..as incensed by his countrymen’s neglect of their native traditions as by their abrogation of responsibility for their own affairs, and he took it upon himself to “keep up perpetually a sort of Berseker rage” of protest, and to act as “the catfish that vitalizes the other torpid of the aquarium.”
In 1964, the experimental film-maker Margaret Tait made short documentary portrait of Hugh MacDiarmid, which captured the poet at home in Langholme, his sense of childish fun, his socializing his the bars and public houses of Edinburgh (the Abbotsford on Rose Street).
More on Hugh MacDiarmid, plus poetry and reading, after the jump…
There’s a “must read” article that appeared on The Guardian’s website—ironically on the 4th of July, America’s national celebration of revolution—about a new-found interest in the ideas of Karl Marx among younger people. Going on in London this week is a five-day seminar/festival, organized by the Socialist Workers’ Party, called Marxism 2012. The festival is expected to draw several thousand people, many of them in their 20s and early 30s.
At the start of the piece, French Marxist thinker Jacques Rancière lays out a remarkably blunt truth to Guardian editor Stuart Jeffries: “The domination of capitalism globally depends today on the existence of a Chinese Communist party that gives de-localised capitalist enterprises cheap labour to lower prices and deprive workers of the rights of self-organisation. Happily, it is possible to hope for a world less absurd and more just than today’s.”
Aren’t Marx’s venerable ideas as useful to us as the hand loom would be to shoring up Apple’s reputation for innovation? Isn’t the dream of socialist revolution and communist society an irrelevance in 2012? After all, I suggest to Rancière, the bourgeoisie has failed to produce its own gravediggers. Rancière refuses to be downbeat: “The bourgeoisie has learned to make the exploited pay for its crisis and to use them to disarm its adversaries [Tea party dupes, he is talking about YOU—RM]. But we must not reverse the idea of historical necessity and conclude that the current situation is eternal. The gravediggers are still here, in the form of workers in precarious conditions like the over-exploited workers of factories in the far east. And today’s popular movements – Greece or elsewhere – also indicate that there’s a new will not to let our governments and our bankers inflict their crisis on the people.”
That, at least, is the perspective of a seventysomething Marxist professor. What about younger people of a Marxist temper? I ask Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal, a 22 year-old English and drama student at Goldsmiths College, London, who has just finished her BA course in English and Drama, why she considers Marxist thought still relevant. “The point is that younger people weren’t around when Thatcher was in power or when Marxism was associated with the Soviet Union,” she says. “We tend to see it more as a way of understanding what we’re going through now. Think of what’s happening in Egypt. When Mubarak fell it was so inspiring. It broke so many stereotypes – democracy wasn’t supposed to be something that people would fight for in the Muslim world. It vindicates revolution as a process, not as an event. So there was a revolution in Egypt, and a counter-revolution and a counter-counter revolution. What we learned from it was the importance of organisation.”
This, surely is the key to understanding Marxism’s renaissance in the West: for younger people, it is untainted by association with Stalinist gulags. For younger people too, Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalism in his 1992 book The End of History – in which capitalism seemed incontrovertible, its overthrow impossible to imagine – exercises less of a choke-hold on their imaginations than it does on those of their elders.
This is extremely significant, as Jeffries rightly points out. Even in America this is increasingly the case. Young people who have graduated from college with crushing amounts of debt, no health insurance, and who work in dead end jobs (if they can get a job at all) with no clear path to begin their careers are becoming quite interested in understanding what the hell happened. It’s really no surprise that they’ve started to google Capitalism’s greatest critic and read up on his ideas. Many people who joined in various OWS protests around the country were further exposed to Marxist critiques of Capitalism and Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek who has become an unlikely intellectual rockstar to young, politically active American leftists who hang on his every word. These recent “converts,” if you will, have only just started to do more research and talk to and exchange ideas with other like-minded people.
As today’s disillusioned, but media-savvy 20-somethings begin their own inroads to influencing the culture, expect that music, film, TV, blogs and even our mainstream news outlets will become more friendly to the ideas of Marx and Engels, even if they aren’t always given credit for them. Ideas that 160 years after they were originally formulated, are starting to make so much sense to intelligent young people living through an age of Capitalism in deep crisis. Will American ever embrace “Marxism,” per se? That seems doubtful, of course, simply due to the cultural knee-jerk taboo around this particular “ism,” but still there is the rather pressing issue of Marxism’s historical inevitability:
Call it whatever you want to, but a situation where a mere 1% of the population control most of the wealth doesn’t seem like it’s going end so well for the ones doing the hoarding.
There’s a big problem that Capitalism increasingly faces: Because of the Internet, over the past fifteen years or so, the average person has easy access to information sources that they never dreamed of or knew existed in the first place. Before the mid-90s, it was much more difficult for the man on the street to be able draw a connection between the price of a particular drug and the net worth of the CEO of the pharmaceutical company that manufactures it. Today, they are beginning to understand that when a CEO of a pharmaceutical company is making $50,000,000 a year that they are paying a TAX ON THEIR OWN HEALTH for the sake of that rich asshole’s obscene salary with EVERY PILL THEY TAKE. Or consider the tax paid directly to the billionaire Walton family from EVERY product sold in a Wal-Mart. It’s a breath-taking con when you consider that ONE GODDAMN FAMILY basically gets to add their own personal tariff to every product sold in the world’s largest retail behemoth!
HOORAY FOR FUCKING CAPITALISM.
HOORAY FOR WALL STREET VAMPIRES.
Only a delusional idiot, the Royal family, the Walton family or a charter member of the 1%, would even wish for the current system to stand as it is. And the opinion of anyone who thinks America or Europe (or China or Russia for that matter) is still going to be doing business the same way in 2032 as it is done in 2012 should be dismissed with extreme derision.
Of course, the American people aren’t going to tip sales of The Communist Manifesto (the world’s #2 selling book of all time) to overtake The Bible any time soon, but then again they needn’t read a German philosophical treatise on how the price of a particular commodity is derived, either, when they’ve got folks like Jon Stewart, Cenk Uygur, Martin Bashir and Rachel Maddow to explain it to them.
In the same sense that ideas once common to the lunatic fringe of the John Birch Society have now achieved mainstream “respect” via Glenn Beck and Fox News, so will covertly Marxist ideas become mainstreamed as younger people coming of age with their eyes wide open in this shitty economy have their day. Eventually the major tenants of Marxism will arrive in the American marketplace of ideas in the guise of plain-talking, good old-fashioned common sense.
Back to Jeffries:
For a different perspective I catch up with Owen Jones, 27-year-old poster boy of the new left and author of the bestselling politics book of 2011, Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working Class. He’s on the train to Brighton to address the Unite conference. “There isn’t going to be a bloody revolution in Britain, but there is hope for a society by working people and for working people,” he counsels.
Indeed, he says, in the 1860s the later Marx imagined such a post-capitalist society as being won by means other than violent revolution. “He did look at expanding the suffrage and other peaceful means of achieving socialist society. Today not even the Trotskyist left call for armed revolution. The radical left would say that the break with capitalism could only be achieved by democracy and organisation of working people to establish and hold on to that just society against forces that would destroy it.”
Owen Jones is right. A violent revolution in America seems beyond a remote possibility, as well, whether from the left (not enough stomach for violence) or right (stomachs too fat for being able to inflict much violence). The future American revolution will be one won at the ballot box and through superior demographic numbers. As has been pointed out many, many times, in many, many places, the heyday of the reactionary right that began with Reagan is increasingly being seen in the country’s rear view mirror, demographically speaking. America will always have its conservative wingnuts, it’s just that we’ll have far fewer of them as the Tea partiers and Fox News viewers start to die off in the coming years. Democracy is a numbers game. It always has been.
Having toiled at a major daily newspaper myself, I won’t hold it against Stuart Jeffries that he was obliged to quote at least one “Debbie Downer” about the common, hackneyed misconception of what “Marxism” means, in this case Prof. Alan Johnson, of Edge Hill University, who thinks Communism, “[a] worldview recently the source of immense suffering and misery, and responsible for more deaths than fascism and Nazism, is mounting a comeback; a new form of leftwing totalitarianism that enjoys intellectual celebrity but aspires to political power,” on the World Affairs blog:
“The New Communism matters not because of its intellectual merits but because it may yet influence layers of young Europeans in the context of an exhausted social democracy, austerity and a self-loathing intellectual culture,” wrote Johnson. “Tempting as it is, we can’t afford to just shake our heads and pass on by.”
That’s the fear: that these nasty old left farts such as Žižek, Badiou, Rancière and Eagleton will corrupt the minds of innocent youth. But does reading Marx and Engels’s critique of capitalism mean that you thereby take on a worldview responsible for more deaths than the Nazis? Surely there is no straight line from The Communist Manifesto to the gulags, and no reason why young lefties need uncritically to adopt Badiou at his most chilling. In his introduction to a new edition of The Communist Manifesto, Professor Eric Hobsbawm suggests that Marx was right to argue that the “contradictions of a market system based on no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’, a system of exploitation and of ‘endless accumulation’ can never be overcome: that at some point in a series of transformations and restructurings the development of this essentially destabilising system will lead to a state of affairs that can no longer be described as capitalism”.
That is post-capitalist society as dreamed of by Marxists. But what would it be like? “It is extremely unlikely that such a ‘post-capitalist society’ would respond to the traditional models of socialism and still less to the ‘really existing’ socialisms of the Soviet era,” argues Hobsbawm, adding that it will, however, necessarily involve a shift from private appropriation to social management on a global scale. “What forms it might take and how far it would embody the humanist values of Marx’s and Engels’s communism, would depend on the political action through which this change came about.”
This is surely Marxism at its most liberating, suggesting that our futures depend on us and our readiness for struggle. Or as Marx and Engels put it at the end of The Communist Manifesto: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
Nobel economist Michael Spence, working at the behest of the Council on Foreign Relations, has co-authored a startling new paper with NYU’s Sandile Hlatshwayo. The two did an enormous amount of number crunching and analyzing of how the US economy has been structured for the past 20 years, and in particular, they examined employment trends. It was not a pretty picture that emerged from all of those details.
Well, I guess that would all depend upon which side of the fork you’re on, wouldn’t it?
As the output and productivity of the American worker increased—a LOT, I should add—during the past two decades, jobs still continued to be outsourced to other countries with cheaper labor pools, and fewer opportunities for economic advancement presented themselves for many Americans. All the while, the $$$ for all of that increased productivity didn’t go to the worker bees themselves, it went to the top, to the capitalists and investors class. To parasites like Mitt Romney and his buddies at Bain Capital.
The CFR report’s conclusions are particularly grim for people who have found themselves slipping out of the middle class towards precarious lives and who feel hopeless to do anything about it, but it’s Marxism 101 for the economic literate.
Here’s how Mr. Spence and Ms. Hlatshwayo put it: “The most educated, who work in the highly compensated jobs of the tradeable and nontradeable sectors, have high and rising incomes and interesting and challenging employment opportunities, domestically and abroad. Many of the middle-income group, however, are seeing employment options narrow and incomes stagnate.”
Mr. Spence notes the benefit to consumers of globalization: “Many goods and services are less expensive than they would be if the economy were walled off from the global economy, and the benefits of lower prices are widespread.” He also points to the positive impact of globalization, particularly in China and India: “Poverty reduction has been tremendous, and more is yet to come.”
I’m sure Americans living in “right to work” states are just jumping for joy to be competing with wage-earners in China and India.
Free trade and the free flow of capital means lower prices for the consumer, true, but when someone in China or India is doing that very same computer programming job that used to be your job in the midwest—information workers will have the most precarious jobs of all moving forward—it’s not like you’ll be able to afford much more than rice and beans at the Wal-Mart anyway.
Yes, there’s a high cost to low price. The two are pretty well interconnected, as we’ve seen, but this is what the “free market” is supposed to do, silly. And don’t forget, it was Wal-Mart that put the local shops out of business to begin with.
Karl Marx predicted all of this. ALL of it.
He’s the most accurate prophet in history, with a record a helluva lot better than Nostradamus!
And to all of the naysayers who claim that a “command economy” doesn’t work, I present to you Wal-Mart itself, the most successful example of a command economy the world has ever seen!
Mr. Spence’s paper should be read alongside the work that David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been doing on the impact of the technology revolution on U.S. jobs. Mr. Autor finds that technology has had a “polarizing” impact on the U.S. work force — it has made people at the top more productive and better paid and hasn’t had much effect on the “hands-on” jobs at the bottom. But opportunities and salaries in the middle have been hollowed out.
Taken together, here’s the big story Mr. Spence and Mr. Autor tell: Globalization and the technology revolution are increasing productivity and prosperity. But those rewards are unevenly shared — they are going to the people at the top in the United States, and enriching emerging economies over all. But the American middle class is losing out.
It may seem surprising that it takes a Nobel laureate and sheaves of economic data to reach this conclusion. But the analysis and its provenance matter, because this basic truth about how the world economy is working today is being ignored by most of the politicians in the United States and denied by many of its leading business people.
Here’s where it gets much grimmer, as the article’s author, Chrystia Freeland (who has been the Global Editor-at-Large of Reuters since 2010) tells of a recent breakfast at the CFR that she moderated. The speaker that morning was Randall Stephenson, chief executive of AT&T.
If this is the mindset of the leaders of corporate America today, we’re doomed:
One of the Council of Foreign Relations members in the audience was Farooq Kathwari, the chief executive of Ethan Allen, the furniture manufacturer and retailer. Mr. Kathwari is a storybook American entrepreneur. He arrived in New York from Kashmir with $37 in his pocket and got his start in the retail trade selling goods sent to him from home by his grandfather.
He asked Mr. Stephenson: “Over the last 10 years, with the help of technology and other things, we today are doing about the same business with 50 percent less people. We’re talking of jobs. I would just like to get your perspectives on this great technology. How is it going to overall affect the job markets in the next five years?”
Mr. Stephenson said not to worry. “While technology allows companies like yours to do more with less, I don’t think that necessarily means that there is less employment opportunities available. It’s just a redeployment of those employment opportunities. And those employees you have, my expectation was, with your productivity, their standard of living has actually gotten better.”
HUH? Redeployment of employment opportunities? What the fuck IS this guy talking about?
I recently heard a radio report that indicated that there is ONE factory employing around 15 people in Japan that’s responsible for nearly 80% of the world’s output of a certain sized HD screen. Consider how many people would have worked at a Magnavox television plant in the mid-fifties. Where were those employment opportunities ultimately “redeployed?”
With advanced automation, robotics and so forth, the American worker always was going to become obsolete in the long run, but the speed with which it is happening has gone from a trot to full gallop since the early 90s. Stephenson’s contention that standards of living have improved is ludicrous. Perhaps for him and for all the Cuban cigar-smoking fatcats at the country club in Westchester, but what about the rest of us?
Maybe the all-powerful, wise and benevolent free market will help us?!?!
(Sorry all of that cigar smoke is making me *cough*)
Mr. Spence’s work tells us that simply isn’t happening. “One possible response to these trends would be to assert that market outcomes, especially efficient ones, always make everyone better off in the long run,” he wrote. “That seems clearly incorrect and is supported by neither theory nor experience.”
Not to take anything away from Mr. Spence and Ms. Hlatshwayo, but there was this famous book written by a Mr. Marx and a Mr. Engels—two of the most dangerous minds in history—a hundred and fifty-some years ago that predicted all of this shit with amazing, laser-like accuracy.
Mr. Spence says that as he was doing his research, he was often asked what “market failure” was responsible for these outcomes: Where were the skewed incentives, flawed regulations or missing information that led to this poor result? That question, Mr. Spence says, misses the point. “Multinational companies,” he said, “are doing exactly what one would expect them to do. The resulting efficiency of the global system is high and rising. So there is no market failure.”
Okay, stop for a second. Read that last paragraph again, won’t you? Now read it a third time.
Mr. Spence is telling us that global capitalism is working, but that the American middle class is losing out anyway.
Yep, exactly like a certain Mr. Marx predicted would happen. What remains to be seen is how long it takes for the average American to wake up to what’s going on, when the elites are so hellbent on trying to keep them as confused as possible. Less sophisticated people can be forgiven for falling for conspiracy theories, when the REAL action is right out in the open: No one ever thinks to look there!
Mr. Spence admits he has no easy answers. American politicians are focused on a budget debate that is superficial, premature and ultimately about something pretty easy to figure out. Instead, we should all be working on the much bigger problem of how to make capitalism work for the American middle class.
In the trailer for that upcoming Obama conspiracy theory movie, I spotted the cover for this book, Teachings of Marx for Girls and Boys and immediately set out to ABE Books online to find a copy. I didn’t score—how many of these puppies would have been printed in the first place, I wonder—but I did find POSTERS!
Yes, posters of this marvelous image are for sale at the Georgetown Bookstore’s website. Click here to order online.
The author of Teachings of Marx for Girls and Boys, William Montgomery Brown (1855 – 1937) or as he was also known, “Bad Bishop Brown,” was an Anglican clergyman from Ohio is remembered as the first Anglican Bishop to be tried for heresy since the Reformation. Additionally Brown, who evolved in his lifetime from being a missionary and the Bishop of Arkansas to a committed Marxist, was the first member of the clergy in America to be deposed (of any denomination) for being a heretic.
Brown felt that his real ministry began at age 71 when he started lecturing to the working class about Karl Marx and Socialism.
Eric Hobsbawm, the prominent British Marxist historian was on BBC Newsnight earlier this month discussing the “pathological degeneration” of the Capitalist system. The eminent, 94-year-old best-selling author recently published a new book How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism.
It’s difficult to imagine a conversation like this appearing on American television, but that is what YouTube is for, isn’t it?
It’s nearly 36 years since Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in horrific circumstances, on a beach near Rome, in November 2 1975. The story went Pasolini had been killed while trolling. The 17-year-old hustler, who originally admitted his killing, retracted his confession in May 2005, claiming 3 people, with “southern accents” had killed Pasolini, calling him a “dirty communist”.
Later, an investigation into new evidence, which suggested Pasolini had been murdered over a blackmail plot involving stolen reels of his film Salo - 120 days of Sodom, proved inconclusive, and his grim and brutal murder remains unsolved.
Pasolini was a “Marxist, mystic, Catholic and atheist”, a poet and novelist who wrote over 25 novels and half-a-dozen volumes of poetry.
Pasolini was also one of the most important, radical and influential film-makers of the twentieth century, whose life and works as author, poet and film-maker are ripe for rediscovery.
In this short documentary, we see Pasolini the film-maker, the man of singular vision behind the films Accatone, Mamma Roma, The Gospel According to Matthew, Oedipus Rex, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.
Pasolini was an auteur, as he explains:
My films are the work of an author with a very singular individual characteristics. I’ve never wanted to make a conclusive statement, I’ve always posed various problems and left them open to consideration…The cinema is an explosion of my love for reality. I have never conceived of making film that would be the work of a group, I have always thought of film as the work of an author, not only the script and the direction, but the choice of sets and locations, the characters, even the clothes - I choose everything.
Pier Paolo Pasolini - A Film Maker’s Life (1971) is a fine introductory film to Pasolini, the man and his work, though it ignores his sexuality and its importance to his life. With contributions from Alberto Moravia, Franco Citti, and Pasolini, himself, who discusses his background, his politics, film-making, and revolution.
There was a time when Nation of Ulysses was the most influential underground rock band in the world. It may not have been for a very long time, and it may have been 20 years ago, before Nirvana took punk aesthetics into the heart of the mainstream, but for a while it seemed like everyone who heard or saw this band just couldn’t shut up about them. It’s not hard to see why Nation of Ulysses drew such cultish adulation - they were always about much more than being a simple band. They had a defined visual aesthetic that drew more from jazz and Soviet art than hardcore. They spoke politics. They worse suits. They described themselves in statements that by today’s standards would spell career suicide for a rock band:
We’re not only a political party, but also a terrorist group. The imperative started with the recognition of the colonialization of youth culture by youth imperialists and the establishment. It was initially formed as a response to that, but now we’ve broadened our breadth to encompass a complete destruction of the American legacy. We understand the workings of oppressions big and small.
At the time [they formed] was Ulysses Speaks your primary medium?
Yeah, we were mostly just proliferating literature and bombing buildings, and then we realized the medium of noise not only creates a perfect cover for our organization but it also creates a camouflage for maniacal riotous behavior and provides a context for acting like an idiot and going beyond the structures of everyday behavioral codes. When you see a show, everybody is jumping up and down screaming—if it’s good—and that’s because they’ve been allowed to step outside the boundaries of regular behavior. We want to go one step further. It’s absurd behavior—dancing is incredibly absurd—and we want to take that one step beyond, and that’s why we have so much violence on stage; we’re trying to bring it to the next level. We’re fighting a war there in the room…the room that we took over.
Since you began this mission, have you become more optimistic that you can effectively utilize the facade of populist entertainment to convey the party message?
Yeah…our message is visual, it’s aural, and it’s olfactory. Our message couldn’t be progenitated properly just with sound. We see the whole idea of music as a sound phenomena as really bogus and an idea which has only taken root since the proliferation version of recorded medium, like records. Before then, nobody would have ever thought, “this is only attacking my ears”, because there’s always a visual side to that whole phenomenon. We’re into the true experience, and that’s why the whole idea of music has really aligned us. What we’re wearing on stage and the way we move on stage has just as much to do with the idea that we’re getting across as the sound that we’re putting forth.
Have you been able to stir up as much antagonism as you might have hoped for?
Yeah, you know - the old order; people who sense the dissolution and the proliferatrion of new ideas. There’s a Kill Ulysses conspiracy - It’s called the Kill Ulysses National Workers Socialist Party; they’re just trying to destroy us. Rock and Roll is trying to destroy us.
From The New Puritan ReView, 1991 - read the whole interview here.
Still, for all the word-of-mouth hype that surrounded Nation of Ulysses in their brief but dazzling career, for kids like me who lived in the sticks their music was harder to come across than hen’s teeth - another situation that seems impossible by today’s standards. Back in the days when you had to travel to a big city and visit a specialist record shop in the hope of picking up an import 7”, it was easier to find releases by Ulysses’ UK adherents like Huggy Bear than it was the band’s own originals. Thankfully, the hardcore NoU fan base still exists and has been doing a pretty good job of disseminating footage and material on the internet, ensuring the band’s legacy will live on and attract more fans. Sure, Nation of Ulysses weren’t the first punk act to adhere to hardcore left-wing politics, or to have a well defined look and outlook, but no-one did it with this much goddam style:
Nation of Ulysses “Introduction/Spectra Sonic Sound” live 1991
OK, so the audio quality in that clip was pretty poor, but it gives you an idea of what their shows were like. Plus, I do love that washed out, third-generation VHS-copy look. Here’s another clip of NoU live from 1991 (minus suits):
Nation of Ulysses “A Comment on Ritual” live 9:30 Club, 1991
You can now buy the Nation of Ulysses back catalog direct from Dischord.
After the jump, even better quality footage of NoU live in DC circa 1991, including a further 30 minutes of that 9:30 Club show above (in color)…
On an individual basis, when you are staring one dumb kid in the face who can’t articulate why he wanted to burn a local shop to the ground, well then, yes, you can say it’s criminal behavior, someone who wasn’t raised properly or a matter of law and order. However, when mass-rioting is seen on a scale the likes of which occurred in England recently, it seems quite obvious that what we’re observing is a widespread social pathology resulting from end-stage capitalism. From the tepid (and often counter-productive) response of the British government to the riots, one can only conclude that they have completely run out of ideas—or lack the will—to do anything about the root causes of the unrest.
Radical Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek writes on on the deeper meaning of England’s riots in the London Review of Books:
Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history: when something happens just once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently; but when the same event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding. When Napoleon lost at Leipzig in 1813, it looked like bad luck; when he lost again at Waterloo, it was clear that his time was over. The same holds for the continuing financial crisis. In September 2008, it was presented by some as an anomaly that could be corrected through better regulations etc; now that signs of a repeated financial meltdown are gathering it is clear that we are dealing with a structural phenomenon.
We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo: if we did, the argument runs, the rich would have no incentive to invest, fewer jobs would be created and we would all suffer. The only way to save ourselves from hard times is for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. What should the poor do? What can they do?
Although the riots in the UK were triggered by the suspicious shooting of Mark Duggan, everyone agrees that they express a deeper unease – but of what kind? As with the car burnings in the Paris banlieues in 2005, the UK rioters had no message to deliver. (There is a clear contrast with the massive student demonstrations in November 2010, which also turned to violence. The students were making clear that they rejected the proposed reforms to higher education.) This is why it is difficult to conceive of the UK rioters in Marxist terms, as an instance of the emergence of the revolutionary subject; they fit much better the Hegelian notion of the ‘rabble’, those outside organised social space, who can express their discontent only through ‘irrational’ outbursts of destructive violence – what Hegel called ‘abstract negativity’.
There is an old story about a worker suspected of stealing: every evening, as he leaves the factory, the wheelbarrow he pushes in front of him is carefully inspected. The guards find nothing; it is always empty. Finally, the penny drops: what the worker is stealing are the wheelbarrows themselves. The guards were missing the obvious truth, just as the commentators on the riots have done. We are told that the disintegration of the Communist regimes in the early 1990s signalled the end of ideology: the time of large-scale ideological projects culminating in totalitarian catastrophe was over; we had entered a new era of rational, pragmatic politics. If the commonplace that we live in a post-ideological era is true in any sense, it can be seen in this recent outburst of violence. This was zero-degree protest, a violent action demanding nothing. In their desperate attempt to find meaning in the riots, the sociologists and editorial-writers obfuscated the enigma the riots presented.
The protesters, though underprivileged and de facto socially excluded, weren’t living on the edge of starvation. People in much worse material straits, let alone conditions of physical and ideological oppression, have been able to organise themselves into political forces with clear agendas. The fact that the rioters have no programme is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted: it tells us a great deal about our ideological-political predicament and about the kind of society we inhabit, a society which celebrates choice but in which the only available alternative to enforced democratic consensus is a blind acting out. Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, or even as a utopian project, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst. What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?
The outright dismissal by many conservative commentators in England that there was ANY political content to the actions of the (supposedly pampered) rioters seemed idiotic to me. AS IF the observation of the mass behavior of thousands upon thousands of underclass young men deciding to burn their neighborhoods to the ground provided not a scrap of data to be interpreted by social scientists? Nonsense!
The liberals in the UK don’t seem to have that much better a grasp of the situation, as Žižek goes on to point out…
Watch for the repetitions. They’re going to be hammering us harder and faster until we start to wise up…
Charles Hugh Smith, author of Survival+ and An Unconventional Guide to Investing in Troubled Times discusses why the Great Recession is here to stay, the structural unemployment that will affect many people and the future of the US economy. Plus, investing your money and time in your own life and in your own community and not getting burned by a publicly traded company you’ve never personally visited. Charles Hugh Smith blogs daily at Of Two Minds.com.