Apr 172014

The Port Huron Statement: the 1962 manifesto that launched the activist movement Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

The American New Left was a protest-oriented movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In its early, developmental stage New Left theories evolved primarily from the trial-and-error experiences of its most dynamic constituent groups and individuals. It was, essentially, a response by liberal activists and dissident leftists to the cataclysmic widening of the gulf between the theory and practice of traditional Marxism in the mid-1950s.

The New Left began life in the mid 1950s as a reformist movement fertilised by an increased consciousness of racism, the threat of nuclear war and, later, America’s aggressive role in the Vietnam War. By the early 1960s the most dynamic elements in the movement had become disillusioned by the inability or unwillingness of the liberal democratic state to acknowledge let alone resolve the pressing moral issues of the day, particularly that of racism in the South. It quickly developed a much more revolutionary critique of the totality of ways in which consumer capitalism and the bureaucratic states of both East and West frustrated human needs and capacities. From a reformist opposition to racism in the South and war in Southeast Asia a revolutionary stance emerged of opposition to racism in general, to imperialism in all its forms and to sexism both in society at large and within the movement itself. Those who adopted this position viewed the whole mass of problems bred by an industrial society — alienation, ecological threats to the environment, poverty, hierarchy, competition, etc. — as being impossible to solve within either capitalism or bureaucratic communism.

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Apr 152014


MercenaryUntil the end of the eighteenth century one of the most important developments in warfare, apart from the invention of gunpowder and the adoption of firearms, had ‘been the superseding of feudal military organisation by professional, mercenary, troops’. By the end of the fifteenth century the diffused feudal nobility of Europe had discovered, to their cost, that professional soldiers, who fought for pay alone and were personally loyal to the sovereign, were far more reliable than the hastily recruited and poorly trained and motivated feudal armies they relied on. These ‘professional’ or centrally controlled ‘royal’ armies could, moreover, be sent to keep order at home or wage war abroad with little fear of external factors affecting morale or their fighting qualities. Relatively free, therefore, from popular or subordinate influences, the sovereigns of Europe could wage wars with limited resources for limited objectives and negotiate peace on a compromise basis when those objectives were either attained or appeared unobtainable.

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Nov 012013

aldous-huxleyTHAT MEN DO NOT LEARN VERY MUCH FROM THE LESSONS OF HISTORY is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach. Si vis pacem, the Romans liked to say, para bellum – if you want peace prepare for war. For the last few thousand years the rulers of all the world’s empires, kingdoms and republics have acted upon this maxim — with the result, as Professor Sorokin has laboriously shown, that every civilized nation has spent about half of every century of its existence waging war with its neighbors. But has mankind learned this lesson of history? The answer is emphatically in the negative. Si vis pacem, para bellum still is the watchword of every sovereign state, with the possible exception of Monaco. Again, what happens when economic power is concentrated in a few hands? History’s answer to that question is that, whatever else it may be, that which happens is most certainly not democracy. But while politicians everywhere proclaim the virtues of democracy (even the totalitarian states are People’s Republics), advancing technology is everywhere allowed and even encouraged to work for the concentration of economic power. Small-scale operators in agriculture and industry are progressively eliminated, and in their place advancing technology installs an oligarchy of giant concerns, owned and operated either by private corporations and their managers, or by the state and its bureaucrats.

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Aug 132012

The British Council and the Edinburgh Writers Conference

On a recent Sunday the Herald had a twenty page full colour supplement in association with the Scottish Tourist Board. Stories from the land that inspired Disney Pixar’s Brave. That’s us. The land “Where Legends Come to Life”. People wonder why we get irritated occasionally. It isn’t to do with the movie itself. I havent even seen it. The storyline involves loveable indigenous aristocrats, which is familiar: the kind of shite favoured by Scottish politicians, cuddly comedians and cuddly actors, cuddly rockstar rebels, millionaire sportstars and, of course, the cuddly ruling elite. This particular movie has a royal daughter hero rather than a royal son, which appeals to some as a blow for female emancipation, apparently.

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Mar 292012

James Kelman — On Self-Determination

In an article for the US magazine NY Arts, Glaswegian writer James Kelman nails his colours to the mast with regard to the current debate on Scottish Independence:

‘In an American journal I read a prominent English writer was described as ‘very British’. What can it mean to be ‘very British’? Could I be described in this way? Can my work be described as ‘very British’? No, not by people in Britain, or by those with a thorough knowledge of the situation. The controlling interest in ‘Britishness’ is ‘Englishness’. This ‘Englishness’ is perceived as Anglo-Saxon. It is more clearly an assertion of the values of upper-class England, and their validity despite all and in defiance of all.

Power is a function of its privileged ruling elite. To be properly ‘British’ is to submit to English hierarchy and to recognise, affirm and assert the glory of its value system. This is achieved domestically on a daily basis within ‘British’ education and cultural institutions. Those who oppose this supremacist ideology are criticised for not being properly British, condemned as unpatriotic. Those Scottish, Welsh or Irish people who oppose this supremacist ideology are condemned as anti-English. The ‘British way’ is sold at home and abroad as a thing of beauty, a self-sufficient entity that comes complete with its own ethical system, sturdy and robust, guaranteed to outlast all others.

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Jan 052012

Peter Kropotkin

ANARCHISM is a creed inspired and ridden by paradox, and thus, while its advocates theoretically reject tradition, they are nevertheless very much concerned with the ancestry of their doctrine. This concern springs from the belief that anarchism is a manifestation of natural human urges, and that it is the tendency to create authoritarian institutions which is the transient aberration. If one accepts this view, then anarchism cannot merely be a phenomenon of the present; the aspect of it we perceive in history is merely one metamorphosis of an element constant in society. It is to tracing this constant but elusive element that anarchist historians, such as Peter Kropotkin, Max Nettlau, and Rudolf Rocker, have largely devoted themselves.

The family tree which these writers have cultivated so carefully is indeed a magnificent growth, and in the shade of its branches one encounters some astonishing forefathers. Kropotkin was perhaps the most extreme of all the anarchist genealogists, for he sought the real origin of his creed not among individual thinkers, but among the anonymous mass of the folk. ‘Anarchism,’ he declared, ‘originated among the people, and it will preserve its vitality and creative force so long only as it remains a movement of the people.’

In Modern Science and Anarchism this belief is elaborated in historical terms. ‘From all times,’ Kropotkin claims in this book, ‘two currents of thought and action have been in conflict in the midst of human societies.’ These are, on the one hand, the ‘mutual aid’ tendency, exemplified in tribal custom, village communities, medieval guilds, and, in fact, all institutions ‘developed and worked out, not by legislation, but by the creative spirit of the masses’, and, on the other hand, the authoritarian current, beginning with the ‘magi, shamans, wizards, rain-makers, oracles, and priests’ and continuing to include the recorders of laws and the ‘chiefs of military bands’. ‘It is evident,’ Kropotkin concluded dogmatically, ‘that anarchy represents the first of these two currents. … We can therefore say that from all times there have been anarchists and statists.’ Elsewhere Kropotkin conjectures that the roots of anarchism, must be found in ‘the remotest Stone-age antiquity’, and from this highly personal view of prehistory he goes on through all the gamut of rebellious movements to the early English trade unions, reaching the eventual conclusion that ‘these are the main popular anarchist currents which we know of in history’. MODERN SCIENCE AND ANARCHISM

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Oct 032011

See ChristieBooks Films
Parts 1 and 2 of Spain at War, a 30-part documentary series produced by Spanish TV in 1986. The films contains many rare and difficult to find images
1) Decline of a regime 2) The Republic: reform and reaction

Sep 092011
Le Frisson des Vampires

Surrealism in the Service of the Fantastic (click to read full article)

‘What dyed-in-the-wool cinephiles have always stupidly misinterpreted as amateurism, nonchalance or ineptitude on Rollin’s part (his disregard for linearity and logic, the influence of theatricality and pataphysics on his thoughts about directing, his well-meaning curiosity for erotic deviancy, his passion for the melodramatic) comes fully into its own as an aesthetic and, may we say, ideological option […] We are transported simultaneously into a Clovis Trouille painting or a Gaston Leroux novel, into a Max Ernst collage and a Grand Guignol play, into the gaudy cover of some old Fantômas and an episode from a silent serial, into The Castle of Otranto and the cavern of The Phantom in Bengal. Swimming against the tide of pyrotechnics in movies that confuse car chases and action, conventions and daring innovations, and digital trickery and mise en scène, Jean Rollin steers us back towards cinema. Genuine cinema, the sort that can make us shudder and cry, the sort that can leave us walking on air.’

Jean-Pierre Bouyxou, “La Fiancée de Dracula,” foreword to Pascal Françaix’s Jean Rollin, cinéaste écrivain (Paris: Éditions Films ABC, 2002)

No man is a prophet in his own land, or so the saying goes. This certainly holds true for Jean Rollin, a filmmaker vilified right from the outset by French movie critics.[1] As for British and American movie-lovers, they look upon him as a “master of fantasy cinema.”[2] When all is said and done, why the French are so down on him remains relatively obscure. As Bouyxou stresses, the reasons for such lack of understanding are doubtless to be sought in the profusion of literary, pictorial and filmic references freely employed in Rollin’s productions; but also, and primarily, in a “defensive,” conformist line of thought. Most often, this failure to understand uses laughter as an outlet in the movie theatre, a laughter usually triggered by the resort to the kind of overblown eroticism that pervades Jean Rollin’s films. Curvaceous young women strolling naked through graveyards elicit chuckling on account of the seeming anachronism of their appearances, but above all because of the sensual power they hint at. Female subjects relate to an innocence mingled with perversion, a reminder to some that the director made X-rated movies during the 1970s[3] and which in their eyes justifies assigning – rather crudely – the exclusive label of pornography to Rollin’s entire fantastic output. While the director admittedly likes filming the beauty of the female form in its simplest get-up (that is, with no get-up at all), this aspect assumes significance in a more complex whole that encompasses location, space, colour, subject, etc. These aspects all add up to a singular aesthetic which has earned Rollin an auteur status that is recognised and feted abroad. A major and singular filmmaker, as Laurent Akin states in the Dictionnaire du cinéma populaire des origines à nos jours, Rollin “can lay claim to being one of the rare poets of French cinema.”[4]

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Jul 212011

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the international civil war in Spain (1936-1939), many of the essential aspects of the conflict are now clearly defined. Yet there is still a rather obscure period, essentially the time occupied by the initial phase of the war, between July and November 1936. It had two telling features: the republicans’ inability to capture even one of the three major cities of Aragón and the resounding failure of Franco’s push against Madrid. These setbacks were to have a substantial impact upon the prolonging of the war on Iberian soil. Today we shall try to unravel the reasons why Zaragoza was not captured either in August or in October 1936, when on both occasions the essential conditions for successful capture were in place. (PDFISSUU)
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Jul 192011

Why not call the present political system a ‘cuntocracy’? It is most certainly not a democracy—at least not the type any one would want.  We need a new name for not just what our leaders do to us because of greed and stupidity.  We need an accurate irrefutable term for all of society’s organisation as an undesirable but innate feature of the effects of the power hungry.  We need a term who’s very existence will drive the science of self-understanding in a way that returns power to the ordinary people—giving them a voice and a simple way to talk back to those who pose as leaders but take us nowhere.  If people in power object: it’s working.

But what are our base assumptions? Well, there is probably only one ‘law’ that we could say social science ‘discovered,’ and this seems to have been axiomatically engendered by sheer flippancy. This was Lord Acton’s statement (in a letter to a Bishop) that all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No one has thought to extrapolate our one law further to establish its social determinants. You are simply not allowed to.  We can adapt Acton’s Law into: all power tends to create cunts and absolute power creates total cunts.  If power and cuntishness are thus implacably entwined we can say that they would form a metaphysical pathos.  An inescapable trap of becoming a cunt awaits the power hungry: fate and vanishing freedom, confusion or loss of values, emotional colouring whether they are aware or not.  If you really believe that you rather than all the others should be in control the result is pessimism and fatalism towards all else, including analysis of the situation.  This trap gives rise to a functional rationality to keep the illusion going: the cuntocracy.  Max Weber’s concept of the inescapable ‘Iron Shell of Bureaucracy,’ or Marx’s ‘Barbarism’ as the incurable ‘leper of civilisation’ point to its social psychology.[1] PDF

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