Radical media, politics and culture.


‘The London Hanged – Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century’, Second edition.

Peter Linebaugh, Verso, 2006, 492 pp.

ISBN 1-85984576-2 (pbk)

Published in Capital and Class, issue 92, Summer 2007.

Reviewed by Trevor Bark

Coming as it does at a time of international and domestic conflict and disputes over law – over competing definitions of ‘justice ‘ and ‘right’ – the reprinting by Verso of this exemplary work of historical materialism in the British Marxist Historian tradition is most welcome. Peter Linebaugh, a student and comrade of E.P. Thompson, has revisited here the political and economic transformations that were necessary to change feudalism into capitalism, which were not simply a question of regime or law and enforcement substitution, since these alterations happened on a piecemeal basis over centuries. The main story in the ‘history from below’ approach is the protest and resistance that the proto working class was engaged in during its struggles for survival.

NOT BORED! writes:

"The Worst Book Ever Written by a Situationist"

Not Bored!


A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings: On the Sovereignty of Life as Surpassing the Rights of Man

By Raoul Vaneigem

"Nothing strengthens foolishness better than to honor it with a polemic." — Raoul Vaneigem, 2000.

Raoul Vaneigem's A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings: On the Sovereignty of Life as Surpassing the Rights of Man [1] is easily one of the worst books we have ever read, and it is certainly the worst book ever written by a former member of the Situationist International (SI). Indeed, it is so bad that, were it not for the fact that we recently passed six months translating Vaneigem's superb book La Resistance de le Christianisme, [2] we would not have felt the need to write this review. We would simply have said "Avoid Vaneigem's book about human rights" and left it at that. But this would not have been intellectually honest nor particularly helpful to our readers: there is something wrong with Raoul Vaneigem. It isn't simply the case that some of his books are "good" and that others are "bad." It is almost as if there is Vaneigem, the author of a handful of great books, and then there is someone else who calls himself "Vaneigem" and writes books that would be unthinkable and even offensive to "the other Vaneigem."

The central thesis of A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings is that "human rights" are a mere by-product of the rights that the State has accorded to the so-called free market. "The rights of man are no more than specific amplifications of a single right, which is the right to survive merely for the sake of working towards the survival of a totalitarian economy which was imposed untruthfully as the sole means of sustaining the human race," Vaneigem writes. As a result, "the rights of man sanction in a positive form the negation of the rights of the human being": that is, political freedom is a simple compensation for economic unfreedom. As a historical matter,

the upsurge of the rights of man stems from the expansion of free trade [...] The earliest charters of freedoms appear during the ferment of uprisings in the communes, from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, which opposed the entrenched agrarian situation and its parasitical aristocracy with the redoubt of the towns then in full commercial expansion. The air of city freedoms inspired the pre-industrial bourgeoisie to establish a right of recourse against the arbitrariness of the feudal regime, whose predatory parasitism widely hindered the free circulation of merchandise.

"Lenin’s Return"

Paul Le Blanc


Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What Is to Be Done?’ in Context
by Lars T. Lih

Leidin/Boston: Brill, 2006
867 pages, including index. Hardcover, $181.00

James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left,
by Bryan D. Palmer
Urbana and Chicago: University of
Illinois Press, 2007
542 pages,including index. Hardcover $50.00.

Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth
edited by Sebastian Budgen,
Stathis Kouvelakis, and Slavoj Žižek
Durham: Duke University Press,
337 pages, including index. Hardcover $84.95, softcover $29.95.

About 40 years ago, my great-uncle (now long dead) gave me an old
handbill printed in red ink, issued by District 2 of the Workers Party,
which proclaimed LENIN LIVES! It urged us to “Come En Masse” to
Madison Square Garden to a Sunday afternoon event chaired by Ben Gitlow
(a central leader of U.S. Communism who later devolved into a
professional anti-Communist on the far-right), an event which included
the 400-voice Freiheit Chorus, a 100-piece symphony orchestra, and
speeches from William Z. Foster, C. E. Ruthenberg, Moissaye Olgin, and
Jack Stachel – for an admission fee of 50 cents (not a negligible sum
in 1925) and with an exhortation at the handbill’s bottom: LONG LIVE

The relevance of the handbill now, in relation to these three
remarkable books, is a reflection of the terrible times in which we

The Liberal International

Iain Boal & Michael Watts

Reviewing David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford UP, 2005

1917–21. 1944–48. 1968–72. Any accounting of the twentieth century worth its salt will hinge around the events — and ultimate defeats — of these pivotal years. No easy task, and one for forensic historians, since the forces of reaction buried the losers and the victims. Buried along with them were anticipations of a different world, glimpsed by the Kronstadt sailors, the council-communist partisans, and the autonomists of Mexico City and Bologna, among many. But whatever the effects of these quadrennial moments on individual human lives — and they greatly depended on accidents of place, family, and generation — we are all living in their long shadow.

As for the aftermath of the sixties, September 11th, 1973 now seems a date pregnant with history. It is clearly time to gauge the enormity of that watershed, when the neoliberal counter-revolution was given its first airing with the assassination of Allende and the delivery of the Chilean economy to the "Chicago boys". It is a foundational moment for David Harvey in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, one of the first sustained efforts to chronicle the new global landscape of capitalism.

Clandestines. The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile
by Ramor Ryan
AK Press

Reviewed by Juliana Fredman

Summer 2006 Edition Left Turn

Clandestines is a collection of short stories operating as a psychogeography of social and revolutionary movements from the late 1980’s on, mapped by a radicalized Irish anti-authoritarian. Moving from the Old to the New World the stories track the convulsions of the global system and its revolutionary undercurrents through the experience of our erstwhile story-teller. His astute observations embellish reporting, advocacy and tall tales of unpredictable characters and communities to construct an optimistic, if quixotic take on these end times. At its heart it is a testament to hope for the world vibrantly illustrated by handrawn maps and black and white photographs.

The "Knowledge Economy" of the Eighteenth Century:

Newtonian Science and the Growth of British Capitalism
Lesley B. Cormack,


Practical Matter: Newton's Science
in the Service of Industry and Empire, 1687–1851
Margaret C. Jacob and Larry Stewart

Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 2004. 201 pp. Illustrations, notes, index. $35.00
(cloth), ISBN 0-674-01497-9.

University presidents are fond of proclaiming the importance of the "knowledge economy" in ensuring economic success in the twenty-first century. That is, they argue that the intellectual work of university scholars is really the basis for future prosperity, rather than natural resources, entrepreneurial spirit, or seat-of-the-pants trial and error.

Margaret Jacob and Larry Stewart move this argument back two centuries, arguing that it was precisely the existence of a knowledge economy in the century and a half after Isaac Newton that made possible the huge technological and economic explosion that we now call the Industrial Revolution (or the "industrial revolution," for those less comfortable with the heroic label).

kolya abramsky writes:

The Underground Challenge:
Raw Materials, Energy, the World-Economy and Anti-Capitalism

Kolya Abramsky

[This review will appear shortly in Anarchist Perspectives.]

A review of:

Global Energy Shifts: Fostering Sustainability in a Turbulent Age
By Bruce Podobnik
(Temple University Press, Philadelphia. 2006),


Globalization and the Race for Resources
By Stephen Bunker and Paul Ciccantell
(John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 2005)

Global Energy Shifts: Fostering Sustainability in a Turbulent Age by Bruce Podobnik, and Globalization and the Race for Resources by Stephen Bunker and Paul Ciccantell are two incredibly timely, highly informed and analytically sharp analyses of both raw materials and energy, within a wider, and importantly, long-term analysis of the capitalist world-system as a whole and the conflicts, hierarchies and inequalities that are inherent to its functioning.

From the oil workers of Iraq, to the wood-fuelled kitchens of India, to the stranded in New Orleans, to Black communities of Colombia, to the gas fields of Bolivia, and the electricity consumers in Soweto, to the displaced millions of Narmada and Three Gorges, to the unregulated Chinese coal miners dying in explosions, to the Native Americans whose reproductive health is threatened by uranium extraction in Shoshone, to the iron mines of the Amazon. Increasingly, raw materials and energy are becoming important sites of conflict, and in all likelihood, such trends will continue to intensify in the near future. They are conflicts in which the artificialness and futility of attempting to separate analysis of local, regional, national and global dynamics from one another becomes glaringly obvious. Control of raw materials and energy is a crucial precondition to capitalist production and reproduction.

Orwell & the 70th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War

Markin, IndyBay


George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1952

I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since I was a teenager. Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees.

Gramsci is Dead

Roger Farr

Reviewing Richard J.F. Day (2005) Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements. Toronto/London: Between the Lines/Pluto Press.

It appears that Antonio Gramsci’s death certificate has been signed by anarchists.

In Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements, Richard Day reassesses from an anarchist perspective the “logic of hegemony” that unites classical Marxism and liberalism, and declares that this logic has been “exhausted” by recent social movements. To support his argument that certain strains of contemporary struggle have broken with this logic in favour of “direct affinity” and “structural renewal”, terms he recovers from Landauer and Kropotkin, Day examines several examples of autonomous organizing and offers new readings, informed by post-structuralism and autonomist theory, of classical anarchism. Achieving an admirable balance between the demands of high-theory and the need to make his argument comprehensible, Day makes an important contribution to social theory in general, and to “post-anarchist” theory in particular. While this book is certain to be controversial among activists (the critique of “the politics of demand and recognition”), academics (the truncated argument and polemical tone) and anarchists of every stripe (the authority granted to Marxist theory at the expense of the diverse, contemporary anarchist movement), in short, Day’s entire audience, it should nevertheless be read by anyone who is serious about creating radical, anti-authoritarian alternatives to the market and the state.

"Open Source Projects as Voluntary Hierarchies"

Felix Stalder

Reviewing Stephen Weber, The Success of Open Source.
(2004) Cambridge, MA,
Harvard UP

ISBN: 0-674-01292-5, pp. 311

Over the last half-decade, free and open source software (FOSS) has
moved from
the hacker margins to the mainstream. Corporations, large and
small, have
invested in it, some governments are actively supporting it and it is
becoming an increasingly important tool for the building of an
civil society. In the social sciences, the field is receiving a
growing share
of attention, evidenced by a widening stream of research output.
The central
repository for relevant papers, opensource.mit.edu, lists some 250
researchers with a self-declared interest in all things FOSS and
almost as
many scholarly papers, contributed in just five years.
Additionally, there
are several volumes written by activists, book-length treatments by
journalists, plus biographies of the two most prominent figures,
Stallman and Linus Torvalds.


Subscribe to  Reviews