Radical media, politics and culture.

"The Empire Strikes Back"

Anatol Lieven

A few years in Washington, DC, snake-oil capital of the universe, and you begin to think that anything can be packaged as something else. Well, almost anything. Until I read Empire, by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, I would never have believed that a postmodernist paean to Italian anarcho-syndicalism could be presented by its publishers as a defense of "the idealism of the Founders and Abraham Lincoln," and of the universal validity of the US Constitution.

nolympics submits:

"Back to the Motherland: Cuba in Africa"
Christian Parenti. Published by Monthly Review.

reviewiing Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959–1976 (University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 576 pages, cloth $34.95, paper $24.95

Angola is by most accounts a decimated, nearly hopeless land, ruined by more than three decades of war. But there was a moment in the mid-seventies when this former Portuguese colony shone as a beacon of hope for all Africa. It was here that the mythic power of white military supremacy was smashed by black troops from Angola and Cuba. And though the role of Cuban volunteers in this victory inspired Africans and left internationals everywhere, the details of the story have remained largely hidden and even in Cuba, uncelebrated.

Historian Piero Gleijeses’ new book, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959–1976, recovers this politically far away time. It is a truly impressive accomplishment, based on ten years of research using declassified U.S. intelligence, interviews with principal players, and most importantly, vaults of never before revealed Cuban documents from the Communist Party Central Committee, armed forces, and foreign ministry. This highly detailed but superbly told story recounts Cuba’s many bold, often noble, sometimes successful interventions in Africa. The operations ranged from briefly aiding revolutionary Algeria under Ahmed Ben Bella; fighting and doctoring with Amilcar Cabral’s guerrillas in Guinea Bissau; and Che’s lost year in the Congo with the demoralized rank and file of Laurent Kabila’s Simbas; to Cuba’s finest hour, outgunned and outnumbered, on the battlefields of Angola. This last adventure forms the heart of the book and was Cuba’s largest engagement, thus its details are worth recounting.

nolympics submits:

"Secret History of the IRA"

Anthony McIntyre, The Blanket

Anthony McIntyre is a former republican prisoner from Belfast, a founder of the Republican Writers Group and a harsh critic of Sinn Fein and its leadership (from the left). Here he recounts a lecture given by Ed Moloney in Galway. Maloney wrote A Secret History of the IRA, published last year. The book provides a narrative of the peace process and IRA cease fire at odds with both the IRA version and that of the relevant states. The central argument of the book suggests that Gerry Adams had been involved in negotiations towards a ceasefire with the British as early as 1986, and that those negotiations led to the IRA and Sinn Fein abandoning the central tenets of modern republicanism, (refusal to recognise the northern state, the right of the Irish people as a whole to self determination not subject to loyalist veto, the right of the Irish people to resist occupation under arms, etc).

This piece was published by The Blanket, "a journal of protest and dissent" from the north of Ireland. Read it at the link.

Anonymous Comrade submits:

"Reach-Me-Down Romantic"

Terry Eagleton

George Orwell by Gordon Bowker | Little, Brown, 495 pp, £20.00

Orwell: The Life by D.J. Taylor | Chatto, 448 pp, £20.00

Orwell: Life and Times by Scott Lucas | Haus, 180 pp, £8.99

He was the son of a servant of the Crown from a well-heeled South of England background, who shone at prep school but proved something of an academic flop later on. A passionate left-wing polemicist, he nonetheless retained more than a few traces of his public-school breeding, including a plummy accent and a horde of posh friends. He combined cultural Englishness with political cosmopolitanism, and detested political personality cults while sedulously cultivating a public image of himself. From a vantage-point of relative security, he made the odd foray into the lives of the blighted and dispossessed, partly to keep his political nose to the ground and partly because such trips furnished him with precious journalistic copy. Coruscatingly intelligent though not in the strict sense an intellectual, he had the ornery, bloody-minded streak of the independent leftist and idiosyncratic Englishman, as adept at ruffling the feathers of his fellow socialists as at outraging the opposition. As he grew older, this cussedness became more pronounced, until his hatred of benighted autocratic states led him in the eyes of many to betray his left-wing views altogether.

This article was originally published as a web exclusive for the excellent Mute Magazine at the following url.

The Return of Proletarian Post-Modernism Part II

Luther Blissett's recent best-seller, 'Q'

by Stewart Home

Q is an intricate historical novel by four Bolognan authors deploying the name of the inglorious footballer Luther Blissett. Stewart Home, a champion of 'multiple identities' who has also published under this name, detects in Q's cultural bricolage an ascending dialectical movement between rebellious practice and theory.

More than any other art form, even painting at the height of its ‘realist’ phase, the novel is tied to the rise of the bourgeois subject. It is for this very reason that fiction writing has tended to lag behind the other arts, and novels are nearly always ascribed to single authors. Indeed, that past master of bourgeois reaction, George Orwell, made books no longer being written by individuals one of the great horrors of his risible dystopia, 1984. In many arts, and only most obviously music and film, openly acknowledged collaboration is the norm and the ongoing weakness of the novel as a mode of cultural expression can be ascribed at least in part to its one-sided and pseudo-individualistic development. Well established writers tend to find it difficult to collaborate because they insist the stamp of their own style should be left on everything they touch, leading to disagreements and a lack of cohesion when they attempt to work in concert. When one or more collaborating writers find it either difficult or impossible to accept the revision by others of their contributions to a group project, it is each author’s weaknesses rather than their strengths that are multiplied. Innovative writers happily lacking a ready-made cultural reputation are in the fortunate position of being able to take a dispassionate view of those moribund artistic conventions rooted in the notion of style. Thus it comes as no surprise that the most successful recent example of a jointly effected anti-novel should be the work of ‘young unknowns’. The book is called Q and although it is attributed to Luther Blissett, the vigour of its anti-narrative is rooted in the fact that it emerged from the combined imaginations of four young upstarts who just happen to live in Bologna and scribble in their native Italian. The gulf between Q and most of the books currently dominating the bestseller list is the difference between masturbation and sex.

jim submits:

"Lacanian Anarchism and the Left"

Todd May

A review of From Bakunin to Lacan:

Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power

Saul Newman, (Lexington Press)


The overall goal of Saul Newman's new book, From
Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the
Dislocation of Power,
is to offer a critique of the
way power, and specifically political power, is
commonly conceived. He avoids the standard approach to

such discussions that runs through an embrace or
modification of Marx, turning instead to the more
neglected arena of anarchism and articulating it with
current thinkers associated with the term
"post-structuralism." Newman argues that what he calls

the "place of power," the idea that treatments of
power seem often to constrain it conceptually to a
certain region or type -- in effect, essentializing
power into a natural kind -- misconceive the true
operation of power. Power is, as many recent thinkers
have argued, more diffuse and uncircumscribed than
traditional progressive treatments of it, especially
Marxism, have been able to recognize.

Anonymous Comrade submits:

Change the World Without Taking Power:

  The Meaning of Revolution Today

John Holloway (London, Pluto Press  2002)

Reviewed by Thomas Guthmann

"Political power grows from the barrel of a gun." (Mao Tse Tung)
As we know from history Mao gained power in China after a long civil war, including the Long March. At the beginning of 2001 the Mexican Zapatistas marched from Chiapas to the capital Mexico City. They did not come to power but spoke in the Mexican parliament and on the Zocalo, the main square of the Mexican capital.

John Holloway is one of the theoretical backers of the Zapatista insurgency. In his new book Change the World Without Taking Power -- The Meaning of Revolution Today, he draws a picture of a new form of revolution.

jim submits:

"Samuel R. Delany, Dangerous Visionary"

Anthony Miller, LA Weekly, May 9-15, 2003

Samuel R. Delany is an author so multifaceted in his identity that he navigates, with equal grace, the disparate worlds of academic conferences and comic-book conventions. As a black, gay science-fiction writer, Delany spans both highbrow literature and underground culture -- as comfortable discussing poststructuralism and semiotics as he is fetishism and S&M. On a quiet Sunday morning he meets me in an old taproom in midtown Manhattan. Carrying a cane and stroking his flowing white beard, Delany comments on the passersby who have likened him to Santa Claus; once, he laughs, he was instead compared to Karl Marx.

hydrarchist submits:

"The Ballad of Buenos

Toni Negri (trans. Nate Holdren*)

A critique of
the Italian edition of the book Notes for the New Social Protagonism
by Colectivo Situaciones

This book speaks of
the events of the 19th and 20th of December, 2001 in Argentina, when the inhabitants
of Buenos Aires took to the streets and aimed themselves at Congress, forcing
the flight of the President, and the successive resignation of the government.
But not only that: it also speaks of before and after the insurrection, speaks
of the new political and social situation that was aimed at dividing the miltary
dictatorship of 1976-83 and the neoliberal decade (1989-1999).