Radical media, politics and culture.

"Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty:

A Political Review"

George Caffentzis

"At length the term-day, the fatal Martinmas, arrived, and violent measures of ejection were resorted to. A strong posse of peace-officers, sufficient to render all resistance vain, charged the inhabitants to depart by noon; and as they did not obey, the officers, in terms of their warrant, proceeded to unroof the cottages, and pull down the wretched doors and windows, — a summary and effectual mode of ejection, still practiced in some remote parts of Scotland, when a tenant proves refractory."
— Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering or The Astrologer (1829)

Neoliberal globalization entered into its first major crisis seven summers ago, with the so-called “Asian Financial Crisis.” Since then the ideological power of this form of capitalism has been slowly ebbing. The once attractive image of the creative powers of humanity finally being brought together in the process of globalization for the “general welfare” by borderless transfers of money, capital and labor at the speed of light now seems to be a nostalgic relic.

Since 1997, along with the continuing economic crises and stagnation of Europe, South America, and Africa, neoliberal globalization has faced two major ideological reversals. The first reversal is associated with a city (Seattle) and the second with a date (September 11, 2001).

"Parecon and the Nature of Reformism"

Wayne Price, Anarkismo.net


Robin Hahnel, Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation.
NY/ London: Routledge, 2005

The second most important problem for anticapitalist radicals is how to get from here to there; that is, how to get from a capitalist society to a good society. The first problem is where do we want to go — what we mean by a good, noncapitalist, society. Working together with Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel has spent years on this first problem, developing a model of what a good society might be like, or at least how its economy might work. In a series of books and essays (e.g., Albert 2000, 2005; Albert & Hahnel 1983, 1991), they have thought out how an economy might function which is managed by its people rather than by either private capitalists or bureaucrats — an economy managed through bottom-up democratic cooperation, rather than by either the market or centralized planning. They call this “participatory economics,” or “parecon” for short. Their model involves coordination by councils of workers and consumers to produce an economic plan. I will not go into it now; it is further discussed in Hahnel’s current book. In my opinion, their model has enriched the discussion of what a socialist anarchist society might look like

However, they have written little on the second issue. Having decided on a social goal, then what? Might it be possible to gradually, peacefully, and incrementally evolve through small positive changes from capitalism to antiauthoritarian socialism? Or must a mass movement, eventually, overturn the capitalist class, smash its state — against the will of its agents — dismantling its police, military, and other institutions, and replace them with alternate structures? This is, of course, the topic: Reform or Revolution? It leads to a certain focus on the nature of the state.

"The Wobbly Legend Lives On in Popular Culture"

Paul Buhle, Chronicle of Higher Education

No title seems more likely to cause an academic publisher to dolefully predict sales in the low three figures these days than one stuck with the word "labor." More often than not, it is slipped into the subtitle, as if arriving in disguise. And no wonder, from one perspective: The American labor movement itself has been on a downward spiral, as a proportion of the work force, for more than two generations.

The aura attached to working-class studies by scholarly generations of the 1960s through the 1980s has also now badly faded. Despite a trove of well-crafted monographs, specialty journals, and annual meetings of regional groups with healthy admixtures of nonacademic enthusiasts, the mood in the field is insular, a holding pattern. Today's students with uncles, aunts, or grandparents in the labor movement often don't even know which particular unions so occupied their time and energy.

And yet the Wobblies continue to evoke interest, on campuses and off. The Industrial Workers of the World, as the movement was formally known, never exceeded 150,000 members and sank into memory by the 1930s. But its luster has somehow survived, perhaps because it never really depended upon numerical strength or bargaining power.

Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs

James Davidson, London Review of Books


The Friend by Alan Bray

Chicago, 380 pp, £28.00

In 1913, Turkish workmen restoring the Mosque of the Arabs in Istanbul uncovered the floor of a Dominican church. Among the gravestones was a particularly striking one in grey-white marble with pink and blue veins. Two helmets with slits for eyes faced each other, like a pair of beaky dolphins about, clangingly, to kiss: ‘Tomb Slab of an English Couple’, the label in Istanbul’s Archaeological Museum says.

The couple were illustrious knights of the royal chamber of Richard II, Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe, ‘the Castor and Pollux of the Lollard movement’, as the medieval historian Bruce McFarlane called them. Neville died just four days after Clanvowe, the inscription records, in October 1391. The Westminster Chronicle fills in the details. Following the death of Clanvowe, ‘for whom his love was no less than for himself’, Neville starved himself to death. Beneath the helmets their shields lean on each other, indicating the position of the bodies beneath. Their coats-of-arms are identical, half-Neville, half-Clanvowe, a blend called ‘impalement’, used to show the arms of a married couple, with Neville’s saltire on the husband’s half, Clanvowe’s bearing on that of the wife. Well, not quite. There are two impaled shields rather than the usual one, indicating a mutual exchange of arms, a double dubbing, so to speak.

"Branded For Life"

Andy Beckett, The Guradian


The Rebel Sell:
How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture

by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter

352pp, Capstone, £16.99

Since Naomi Klein's bestselling anti-capitalist book No Logo was published
five years ago, its success in Britain and North America has been
accompanied by an intriguing political and economic mystery. While Klein and
her imitators have made sweatshops and bullying corporations and the other
costs of global consumerism into much more mainstream topics for public
discussion, this does not seem to have stopped many people from going
shopping. One conclusion you could draw is that political books are not as
life-changing as they were. A more provocative one would be that where the
dominance of modern capitalism is concerned, Klein's kind of thinking is not
part of the solution but part of the problem.

The Rebel Sell is a brave book. In places it is also unfair, light on
evidence and repetitively polemical. But the argument it makes is important
and original. Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, both young Canadian academics,
think that for nearly half a century critics of capitalism have profoundly
misunderstood their enemy. Worse than that, the authors argue, these critics
have — sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not — provided modern capitalism
with the fuel it runs on.

The Times, London (UK),
May 14, 2005

Gang of five

By James Eve

Deep in the hills above Bologna a secretive band of writers has hatched
a truly evil plot — to overthrow the world of celebrity

If you believed everything that was written about the group of Italian
novelists known as Wu Ming, you would think that they were red-toothed
revolutionaries. Under their former pen name — that of the former
Watford and AC Milan footballer Luther Blissett — they published
Q, a sprawling, bloody spy story set in the religious wars of
16th-century Europe. It became a bestseller across the Continent, though
the group's non-literary activities, which according to several breathless
newspaper reports included hijacking a night bus in Rome, prompted as
much interest as the sales figures.

Negativeland's Negativity A Plus

Joseph Dewey, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Doug Nufer, Negativeland

Autonomedia, 2004. 186 pp. Paper: $9.95.

Ken Honochick is both character and experiment. The winner of two gold medals in backstroke swimming at the cursed Munich Games, Honochick spends the next decade trying to cash in on his fragile celebrity (his medal count overshadowed by the Spitz glitz). Married off to a Tournament of Roses Queen, he gets involved in a health spa franchise that pitches spiritual as well as physical rejuvenation but that eventually folds amid a flurry of lawsuits.

By 1988, Honochick, bankrupt financially and morally, drives cross-country, seeking healing by returning to his Florida roots (the narrative is told backward, backstroked as it were). Once there, he confronts in a local tourist trap his own wax figure, a belt of ammo around its shoulder while rescuing a buxom gymnast — an outlandish invention that serves as Nufer’s savagely funny critique of America’s empty cult of celebrity.

But Ken Honochick is also part of a playfully ingenious narrative experiment, a novel executed within an entirely arbitrary constraint: every sentence, every sentence, uses a negative construction. As a Gen-X practitioner of the Oulipo school of self-validating process-texts, the midcentury Dadaist-inspired avant-garde movement that audaciously argued that creativity required not freedom but rather form, specifically rules — precise and entirely arbitrary — for its fullest expression, Nufer works with elegant virtuosity within the self-imposed discipline.

Surely the text threatens to be gimmicky, like watching a Scrabble tournament. But Nufer’s novel is a most satisfying read, an engrossing revelation of a character struggling within a vacuous American culture that is itself Negativeland: a culture defined by hype and hyperbole, celebrity and surface, relentlessly driven to embrace the image, thus perpetuating the cannibalism of expectation and disappointment. That Nufer ultimately resists this heavy negativity is the achievement: Honochick stumbles inelegantly toward the simple solace of another lonely soul. Two negatives, Nufer reminds us, equal a positive.

"Classics of Cannabis Culture Collected"

Michael R. Aldrich, Ph.D., O'Shaughnessy's


Orgies of the Hemp Eaters

Cuisine, Slang, Literature and Ritual of Cannabis Culture

Hakim Bey & Abel Zug (eds.)

Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia. 694 pages, $24.95.

Despite its provocative title, this book focuses on the religious use of cannabis in India (Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist and Tantric) and in the Muslim traditions from Afghanistan across the Middle East to North Africa. Since most religious use of cannabis historically has been with edibles and drinkables rather than smokables, a chapter is devoted to ancient and modern recipes for bhang, majoun, dawamesk, syrups, tinctures, extracts, and high-potency cuisine.

Rounding out the collection are scientific and literary commentaries, mostly 19th century, on the subject of hashish-eating, glossaries of slang for cannabis products in a dozen cultures, an amazing set of illustrations, and perhaps the best bibliography/netography of 2,000+ citations on religious cannabis ever compiled. It's a superb anthology!

"Declaring Forbidden What Is Not Forbidden Is Forbidden"

Phillip S. Smith, DRCNet


Orgies of the Hemp Eaters:

Cuisine, Slang, Literature, and Ritual of Cannabis Culture

Hakim Bey and Abel Zug, eds. (2004, Autonomedia, $24.95).

As someone who writes about drug policy for a living, it is indeed refreshing to sit back and enjoy Orgies of the Hemp Eaters. There is very little of the standard drug policy reform rhetoric in this compilation of cannabis culture— no concern about teenage drug use, no worries about the link between pot-smoking and schizophrenia, no maneuvering over how to craft a political message that will appeal to the not-so-pot-friendly masses or political classes, no concessions to the prohibitionists. But while Orgies of the Hemp Eaters may have little to offer for drug reform wonks, what it does do — and very successfully — is remind us that there is indeed a whole pot-smoking (and -eating and -drinking) world out there in which drug czar John Walters and the rest of his prohibitionist posse are basically irrelevant.

"Fourth World War", a lavish production (on a shoestring budget) including footage from Mexico, Canada, Korea, Plaestine, Argentina and South Africa has recently been released on DVD, but is also available for download over the net. You can find a torrent version here, or a copy on FTP here. If you are using FTP make sure to use a client that can restart a download in case of interruption. Subtitles are available in french and italian from the link for the FTP above. Below you'll find an interview with a member of Big Noise Films, Rick Rowley (the other being Jacquie Soohen) which was printed in the NY Indypendent last year.

Indypendent: What is the Fourth World War?

Rick Rowly: We first heard the term ‘Fourth World War’ from the Zapatistas in 1996. It’s a conflict that transcends the logic of states. It is a war without a singular enemy or fixed battlefields. There are not two sides in the Fourth World War. It is a system at work everywhere violently reorganizing our lives.