Radical media, politics and culture.

"Piracy, Control Practices, and Alternatives"
Alex Galloway, with Pavlos Hatzopoulos and Thanasis Priftis

[From "Piracy as activism" special issue - http://www.re-public.gr/en/]

P.H. - T.P.: With what types of practices would you relate the concept
of piracy in networks? Is it problematic, from a critical standpoint,
to confine piracy to file-sharing?

Alexander Galloway: The pirates are on the rise. With their black
markets and black hats, pirates commandeer ships and copy DVDs. They
crack software systems and resell them under the counter. At the same
time immaterial goods proliferate in file-sharing networks, many
thousands labor away on their contributions to open source projects,
and millions more labor away in online games.

So perhaps to begin one might make a basic distinction between piracy
and the kind of collaborative sharing we associate with culture and
community. In a strict sense piracy is a form of commerce, illicit to
be sure, but commerce nonetheless. Something is stolen and resold via
the black market. Pirates are above all businessmen. Contrast this
with the anti-market activity of sharing, borrowing, or stealing. The
continuum is broad here-for example one is free to endorse sharing
while rejecting stealing-yet it is clear that such activities are
not black-market activities in any traditional sense. In fact I
would guess that very little real piracy takes place in file sharing
networks. It's mostly sharing, borrowing or stealing.

I include stealing here simply to appease the right. I personally have
very little against these kinds of activities and find it difficult
to label them "stealing" in any real sense of the word. In fact there
are lots of cases in which borrowing or even stealing is justified,
particularly in today's economy in which so much of human life is
stolen and debased by commercial and state interests. Reverse stealing
is often a necessity.

The Libertarian Left:
Free-Market Anti-Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal
Sheldon Richman

Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign introduced many people to the word
“libertarian.” Since Paul is a Republican and Republicans, like
libertarians, use the rhetoric of free markets and private enterprise,
people naturally assume that libertarians are some kind of quirky
offshoot of the American right wing. To be sure, some libertarian
positions fit uneasily with mainstream conservatism—complete drug
decriminalization, legal same-sex marriage, and the critique of the
national-security state alienate many on the right from libertarianism.

"Surrealism in the Arab World"
Maroin Dib, Abdul Kadar El-Janabi, Faroq El Juridy, Fadil Abas Hadi, Farid Lariby & Ghazi Younis

The current resurgence of surrealism in the Arab world is a revolutionary development of the greatest significance, demonstrating once more that the strategy of the unfettered imagination is always and necessarily global.

We publish here in English translation a manifesto in which our Arab comrades express their unequivocal interventionist orientation, sharply defined against their specific political and cultural background.

"Surrealism, Politics and Culture"
Neil Matheson

The celebrated photographs of André Breton, Diego Rivera and Léon Trotsky posing together in Mexico in 1938, at the time of their joint manifesto Pour un Art révolutionnaire indépendant, are usually seen as emblematic of a certain convergence of culture and revolutionary politics – and yet, paradoxically, most accounts of Surrealism’s engagement with politics pose the tide of revolutionary fervour as already receding by 1935, while 1938 has also been viewed as the year that Surrealism made the volte-face ‘from the street to the salon.’ A re-appraisal of Surrealism’s troubled relationship with political activism and organised politics has been long overdue, and therefore a collection which sets out not only to analyse in depth some of the key themes and crucial moments in that engagement, but also to rethink the condition of ‘the political’ itself in its relationship with culture, is to be welcomed.

"The Nile of Surrealism: Surrealist Activities in Egypt"
Abdel Kader El-Janabi

[Part of this paper was read on the 26th September 1987 at the conference: The Triumph of Pessimism, held at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.]

I. In his first letter to Georges Henein, sent on April 8 1936, André Breton had this to say: The imp of the perverse, as he deigns to appear to me, seems to have one wing here, the other in Egypt (1). Here André Breton foretold in a sense the course the surrealist intention would take in Egypt from 1936 to 1952. The purpose of this paper is to present a critical survey of surrealism in Egypt, in which we will see that, in spite of the protagonists’ original aim to allow surrealism to break through Egyptian reality in the hope of making it respond to the needs of a society undergoing what some historians have aptly phrased the crisis of orientation (2), their efforts finally turned out, ephemeral, to be, though very resounding, flappings of Breton’s wing. What seems to have happened was a settling of accounts in favour of surrealist creation as part of the French presence in Egypt, rather than a communication with the native that would take account of the emancipatory message of surrealism. On the contrary, what was communicated to the Egyptian public was rather the narrative of progress under the sign of Reason than the liberating sign of the Irrational. We will see in due course that the blame for such a paradox should not be placed entirely on the proponents of surrealism in Egypt, but rather on the inherently closed character of Arabic society in the face of occidental innovation, the fact being that this society would dismiss any such form of innovation. Our concluding remarks will address the question of the inherent failure of Occidental modernity in so far as it dreams of playing a significant role in an alien context. For though it may play such a role, it is on condition that it renounces, both in theory and practice, its fundamental given.

"Egyptian Surrealism and 'Degenerate Art' in 1939"
Don LaCoss

“A group of artists that has been formed in Egypt which calls itself the ‘Degenerate Art Group’ is now in the process of breaking up,” began a report by ‘Aziz Ahmad Fahmi in Cairo’s al-Risala in early July 1939. “It has failed to find the support it had hoped for among artists, the media, and the general public. Not one writer, journalist, or other visitor has called at its headquarters in the Shari‘ al-Madbagh building to hear what its members have to say.”

Fahmi, an arts critic on al-Risala’s editorial board, went on to explain why he felt that, fundamentally and conceptually, this had been a doomed project from the start. He wrote that the kind of degenerate art that this group was calling for was not possible because the term itself is oxymoronic: True art could never be degenerate, since, by definition, art is the supreme expression of the human spirit, and as such it is “honest,” “elevated,” and “high-minded” - it could never be “degraded” or “corrupt” in the way that degenerate things are. The value of artistic work is assessed on the artist’s heartfelt commitment to beauty and craft rather than the work’s style or subject matter; texts, images, or objects routinely turned out by disinterested hacks for reasons other than deeply held personal vision or expression are either “tomfoolery” or “merchandise” and so do not qualify as “art.” The idea of “degenerate art,” then, was a wrongheaded contradiction in terms.

"Art and Liberty: Surrealism in Egypt"
Don LaCoss

Egyptian surrealism broke above ground in late 1937 in Cairo, midwifed through the efforts of Georges Henein, Ramsīs Yūnān, Kāmil al-Tilmisāni, and the brothers Fu’ad and Anwar Kāmil. Throughout the Second World War, the group attracted the involvement of native Egyptians and European expatriates; they propagated a program for the revolutionary defense of the imagination, free expression, and social freedom. Their approach was consistent with ever other surrealist group in the world: a challenging blend of libertarian anti-capitalism, Freudian theories of the unconscious, and wild, poetic subversions of the sort found in the pages of Rimbaud and Lautréamont. In addition to targeting the moribund cultural values of academicism and conservative pharaonicism that dominated Egyptian intellectual and artistic production at the time, the surrealists also critically attacked fascism, the British military occupation, Egyptian monarchists and the liberal bourgeoisie, Muslim nationalism, the brutal persistence of landowner feudalism, and the institutionalized exploitation of women and industrial workers. The Egyptian surrealists were active for the best part of the decade before being dismantled by Egyptian police and British military occupation authorities in the first days of the Cold War.

Bright Sky over North Africa
by Christopher Z. Hobson

The sky is bright over northern Africa, not only because of the burning government buildings and police stations, but because of the new dawn of mass struggle and potential liberation. Since Jan. 14, less than three weeks ago, the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia has fallen and its successor regime has been shaken up several times, the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt has suffered a mighty blow from ever-growing protests seeking the president’s downfall, and more restrained demonstrations have started against the Saleh dictatorship in Yemen. The situation changes hour by hour and people all over the world hope for the protesters’ success. Here are a few notes in summary form.

1. It Can Be Done. No one would have said in December that the people would rise up, destroy one dictatorship, and threaten a second. The Tunisian overturn started with the protest by suicide of a single street vendor. Tens of thousands of ordinary people—workers, students and graduates, neighborhood residents, caravans from provincial cities—brought the government down within a month. Ordinary working and poor people, invisible and despised in “normal” times, are in fact the decisive force in history. Without their actions all reforms turn out empty. When they act, they can shake heaven. And they can win.

"Sharing the Pain: The Emotional Politics of Austerity"
Jeremy Gilbert

“Keep Calm and Carry On” was the fashionably arch, post-ironic catchphrase for Phase One of the Financial Crisis. Its popularity as a motif first on posters and then on every conceivable kind of merchandise peaked during the period following the critical moment in September 2008 when Lehman Brother collapsed and the entire international banking system teetered on the edge of an abyss.

Technically, this was a piece of nostalgic kitsch. The design came from an obscure home office poster prepared in 1939 for use if the Nazis had invaded the UK. Given such an eventuality, ground combat in the coastal regions would have placed considerable physical and emotional demands on the the rest of the country, and the poster was designed to steady the national nerves should those trying circumstances arise. Thankfully, they never did, and the poster was not distributed during the war, but was rediscovered and reproduced for its comedy value only in 2000, becoming a popular ironic decoration in many workplaces during the early years of the twenty-first century. It’s a powerful image: on the one hand, a clichéd yet outmoded expression of ‘traditional’ English stoicism, on the other hand an example of emotional exhortation by the state, whose almost Orwellian tones render it both anachronistic and vaguely sinister.

The peculiarity of such a slogan in today’s unstoical world - where we are all supposed to value ‘emotional literacy’ over reticence and calm resolve - and its apparent naiveté in the face of the perpetual crisis of late capitalism, are certainly enough to raise a smile in anyone. But it’s hardly hilarious enough for that to explain its extraordinary popularity. To understand the latter, I suggest, we have to consider the ways in which this slogan - ‘keep calm and carry on’ - condenses and expresses perfectly the parameters and constituent elements of the whole affective regime through which emotional responses to the crisis of neoliberalism are being organised by powerful forces today.

Tactics Against Debt Jeffrey J. Williams, EduFactory

What does student debt feel like?