Skip navigation

Daily Archives: March 30th, 2009

DEFEND JOBS, DEFEND EDUCATION

The recession has reinforced the importance of learning, not reduced it; yet hundreds of UCU members’ jobs are now at risk. Show solidarity with colleagues from Doncaster, Liverpool, London Metropolitan University and elsewhere at a rally to ‘defend jobs, defend education’ on Thursday 2 April at the University of London Union.

The rally will launch our campaign and will chaired by UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, with confirmed speakers from many other trade unions, members of parliament and student groups. Most important of all UCU members at Liverpool University, London Metropolitan University and Doncaster College will talk about their campaigns to defend jobs and defend education.

All are welcome – please inform colleagues, friends and family! More details are available here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/defendingeducation

Please attend the rally on Thursday 2 April to show solidarity with colleagues. The rally starts at 6pm and will finish by 8pm at the University of London Union, Malet Street London WC1E 7HY: http://tinyurl.com/ULUlocationmap

Best

Justine Stephens
UCU Head of Campaigns

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Historical Materialism Sixth Annual Conference

 

27-29 November 2009, Central London

Another World is Necessary: Crisis, Struggle and Political Alternatives

Co-sponsored by Socialist Register and the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher  Prize

The world economy is traversing a sweeping crisis whose outcomes are still uncertain, but whose scope is undeniable. The name of Marx is now occasionally, if nervously, invoked in the financial press. The neo-liberal project is being reconfigured, and some have even rushed to pronounce it dead. Imperial strategies are being redrawn, while ecological and food crises deepen on a global scale. This situation of instability and uncertainty unquestionably lends itself to incisive analyses drawing upon and critically innovating the traditions of historical materialism. Critical Marxist theorists have already shed considerable light on the mechanisms and tendencies underlying the current crises and emphasised the conflicts and contradictions that are emerging as they develop.


Following upon previous annual conferences which worked towards a recomposition of an international Marxist intellectual sphere, this year’s Historical Materialism conference hopes to serve as a forum for papers and debates that will gauge the capacity of contemporary Marxism to confront this critical conjuncture and its multiple facets, both analytically and politically. We hope that the conference will serve not only as a collective investigation into the numerous global scenarios of capitalist crisis, but also as the opportunity to inquire – drawing on the political and conceptual reservoir of many Marxist traditions – into the class formations, political forces and organisational forms capable of responding combatively and inventively to the current situation. While the hegemony of a one-dimensional neo-liberalism demanded the affirmation that other worlds were possible, the current crises require arguments to demonstrate how we might achieve the other world that is now more than ever necessary.

In keeping with the multi-disciplinary and exploratory character of the journal, we welcome abstracts on any matter of relevance to critical Marxist theory, but will especially welcome papers responding directly to the call, or dealing with some of the following issues:

    • Theories of crisis, and their history
    • Neo-liberalism in retreat?
    • Histories of class struggle, crisis, and revolution
    • Socialist Feminist Responses to Crisis
    • The future of the new imperialism
    • ‘Neo-Keynesian’ responses to the crisis
    • Environmental crisis and eco-socialism
    • Left interventions in the crisis
    • Utopian and non-utopian Marxisms
    • Political agency and subjectivity
    • Theories of political organisation
    • Political economy and labour in contemporary cultural theory
    • Class struggle and class composition today
    • The geography and urbanisation of contemporary capitalism
    • Non-Marxist traditions on the Left
    • Marxist perspectives contemporary art, art history and visual culture
    • Displacing crisis onto the Global South
    • War, militarism, insecurity, and violence
    • Immigration, migrant labour, and anti-racism
    • Socialism in the Twenty-First Century

Note to all those who wish to propose papers and panels: instructions will follow shortly on the procedure for proposals. PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM UNTIL THESE INSTRUCTIONS HAVE BEEN CIRCULATED.

Preference will be given to subscribers to the journal.

Please note also that participants are expected to attend the whole conference – special arrangements for speaking on certain days only cannot be made, except for very extreme circumstances.

Deadline for abstracts: 1 May 2009.

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flows of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

The Rouge Forum: Apocalypse Now and Again

 

Update 30 March 2009

 

A Message from Rich Gibson

 

Dear Friends

A reminder of the outstanding Rouge Forum Conference, Education, Empire, Economy and Ethics at the Crossroads, May 15 to 17, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at Eastern Michigan U. http://www.rougeforumconference.org/

This is the only education-based conference in North America that will seriously take up questions of economic collapse, perpetual war, and the booming rise of inequality and irrationalism–and what to do. Keynote speaker, Staughton Lynd, will address the question at hand: What is to be done?

A blast from the past sets up our current condition: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” Dickens speaking for Micawber in David Copperfield.

The Obamagogue: “But one of the most important lessons to learn from this crisis is that our economy only works if we recognize that we’re all in this together, that we all have responsibilities to each other and to our country.” March 24 2009.

Let us be clear: The Education Agenda is a War Agenda and agenda to mask class war, a war of the rich on the poor which the rich clearly recognize and the poor do not—yet.  The most important less is we are NOT all in this together.

The core issue of our times is the accelerated rise of color-coded inequality met by the potential of mass class conscious resistance. The promise of perpetual war is every bit as real as it was with Bush. The same bankers who produced this very real economic crisis, collapse, are the bankers of the Obama regime. His transparent demagoguery has not worn out yet, but it may soon as the wars are lost and the economy spins into either deflationary chaos or the almost equally ruinous alternative: rampant inflation.

Here we see firms using bailout money to bribe the political class: http://www.newsweek.com/id/190363
Is it hard for liberals to hold up their notion of democracy inside what is now clearly a capitalist democracy, the former overwhelming the latter, while the near seamless merger of the corporations and banks with the political class is finalized? No it is not. Why?

Rolling Stone on “The Wall Street Revolution”: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/26793903/the_big_takeover/7

George Soros Sees No Bottom to World Financial Collapse
http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE51K0A920090221

Quotes From the Great Depression–note the parallels
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/writing/2009/03/great-depression-quotes-1929-vs-2008-1.html

Here are two pieces on what can happen if class conscious resistance does not begin to materialize:
* Fights break out at auto dealership as jobs are lost: http://www.freep.com/article/20090328/BUSINESS06/90328025/Fights+break+out+as+auto+dealership+closes
* Preparing for Civilian Unrest In America: Michel Chossudovsky: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12793

On the upside, resistance and red flags are flying in France: Academic and student anger grows; The nation’s universities continued to be disrupted by strikes and protests against proposed teacher training reforms last week, while university presidents called for a year’s delay in introducing the changes to allow time for reflection and consultation: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090320100214606

On the downside, because of grotesque misleadership from groups like United For Peace and Justice, the potential of a million people in the streets in the US six years ago opposing the wars, only 5-10,000 turned up on the anniversary this year:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/21/AR2009032101368.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Could sanity be peeping up in this mire of crises in the US ? Some districts are limiting homework
http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-homework22-2009mar22,0,5760396.story?track=rss

Wayne Ross and I have a piece under consideration at Z Mag: The Education Agenda is a War Agenda
http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/20965

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-obama-border25-2009mar25,0,761284.story
Is it not odd that DHS is going right into Mexico? “Through “strategic redeployments,” the Department of Homeland Security plans to send more than 360 officers and agents to the border and into Mexico, Napolitano said. Costs across the board, totaling up to $184 million, will be revenue neutral, funded by realigning from less urgent activities, fund balances, and, in some cases, reprogramming, she said. ”

And is it not odd that troops are going to be sent to the US side of border areas to do police work???????

Two sources to add to John Bellamy Foster’s current book, “The Great Financial Crisis,” are classics:
Dunayevskaya: Outline of Marx’s Capital: http://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1979/outline-capital/index.htm This is a terrific teaching tool.

Lewis Corey’s (aka Louis Fraina) book, “The Decline of American Capitalism,” written in 1932, arranges an understanding of the present collapse in notable, prescient, detail. Only a very few reasonably priced books are left in print.

The Rouge Forum Blog is up and you are welcome to join it. http://therougeforum.blogspot.com/

And in hopes that this week we can leave ’em laughing:

South Park on the Economy:
http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/220760

SNL: Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford??!! http://consumerist.com/consumer/clips/snl-skit-dont-buy-stuff-you-cant-afford-252491.php

A modern, roaring, version of L’Internationale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx7A3UYKXj4

Thanks to Susan, Perry, Steve, Wayne, Amber, Doug S, Joe B, Kenny, Sherry, Matt, Victoria, Joe C, Adam and Gina, Bob, Victoria, Tommie, Michael, David, Sharon A., Della, Barbara, Faith, Denny, Jim B, Kim B, Gil, Ernesto, Angel, Jackie, Ann, Candy, GF, Peter, Ricky, Steve, Dennis, Kirk, TC, Bob S, John and Mary, Mary and Paul, and to adjuncts everywhere.

Good luck to us, every one.
Rich Gibson

(More news on those Seattle teachers who resisted testing their students next week).

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

Feeling Too Down to Rise Up

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/opinion/29venkatesh.html


The New York Times, 28th March 2009

 

Feeling Too Down to Rise Up
By SUDHIR VENKATESH

IN Chicago, during the summer of 1992, I watched a rally explode into a riot. Unruly public housing tenants were protesting high prices at local grocery stores. A request to speak with a manager turned into shouts and screams when the proprietor was spotted scurrying out the back door. In minutes, bottles flew overhead, gangs began shooting indiscriminately, people shouted for the heads of the management, and mothers scrambled to shelter infants from flying glass and bullets. In the eyes of the rioters, I could see both anger and euphoria.

These days, we are hearing a lot about “populist rage,” but so far no riots have broken out in front of the Treasury Department or the A.I.G. headquarters. The pundits assure us that Americans are furious, disgusted, mad as hell, but cabinet officials and chief executives haven’t been confronted by throngs of angry citizens. In fact, the only mass disturbance to make news lately was at an “America’s Next Top Model” audition, where three people were arrested on charges of “inciting a riot” — the cause of that uprising, for the record, was not the financial crisis.

The texture of discontent (or lack thereof) can say a lot about a nation, and that Americans today are less likely to rebel may not be an entirely positive sign.

It certainly doesn’t mean we have more love, patience or tolerance for one another. Indeed, it may mean just the opposite, that we tend not to trust one another and that we are more alienated from our neighbors than ever before. The lack of direct action could signal the weakening of a social contract that keeps people meaningfully invested in the fate of our country — which may, in turn, be hindering our ability to resolve this crisis.

Before blogs and radio call-in shows, people joined forces and turned to the streets as their most effective means of expression; a unified, angry crowd was often sufficient to win concessions from employers and governments. And so most rebellions of the 20th century were over bread-and-butter issues like unsafe work conditions, wages and high prices for basic commodities. Even “race riots” were usually motivated by competition between ethnic groups over access to jobs and housing subsidies.

But some outbreaks of lawlessness were also indicators of strong, shared sentiments and were driven by a sense of higher purpose. For example, in 1919 Chicago, black soldiers returned home from World War I to find segregated ghettos, white-dominated unions and racist government practices. Many joined their neighbors who battled white youth and police officers in the streets. They had fought an enemy overseas; now it was their moral duty to fight injustice at home.

Today widespread anger and collective passivity exist side by side. To explain this seeming contradiction, we might look for clues — as so many are doing — in 1930s America. Then, as now, the citizenry reacted angrily to high unemployment, mass layoffs and a crippled banking system.

But it was only several years after the stock market crash that large-scale protests, bread riots and street rebellions began to occur in small towns and big cities. That’s the most pertinent lesson of the Great Depression: people waited, with relative patience, for years for some government response before anyone looted a grocery store or fought off police officers who were evicting families. So it’s possible that if our economic hardships endure, civil unrest could follow.

But if American anger remains corralled on the Internet, into e-mail messages to Congress and in sporadic small-group protests, it is unlikely that the Obama administration will do much to assuage the anger of taxpayers. Administration officials certainly don’t seem concerned that rage will heat up and overflow; after all, anticipating unrest would mean a broad and intensive campaign to shore up housing, food and welfare safety nets. The proposed budget contains a few such line items, but a comprehensive, coordinated program to prevent violence and defuse anger would need sustained commitments from mayors, service providers and civic leaders.

Perhaps the lack of concern is warranted, as several factors make widespread revolt less likely today. Our cities are no longer dense, overcrowded industrial centers where unionized laborers and disgruntled strikers might take a public stand. Concentrated inner-city poverty has declined, too, so don’t expect 1960s-style ghetto unrest.

Our urban centers are instead corporate hubs and the victims of this recession include hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers. For obvious reasons, these folks tend not to have the particular sense of grievance — that a select few are receiving preferential treatment, that they’re on the losing end of a rigged game — that usually sets off a conflagration.

And in today’s cities, even when we share intimate spaces, we tend to be quite distant from one another. Mass disturbances are not highly orchestrated ballets. They require spontaneous interaction, a call and response among unidentified cries of rage, the possibility for a unified mass to form from a gathering of loosely connected individuals.

But these days, technology separates us and makes more of our communication indirect, impersonal and emotionally flat. With headsets on and our hands busily texting, we are less aware of one another’s behavior in public space. Count the number of people with cellphones and personal entertainment devices when you walk down a street. Self-involved bloggers, readers of niche news, all of us listening to our personal playlists: we narrowly miss each other. Effective rebellions require that we sing in unison.

We may also have anger fatigue. Each day brings more layoffs and more news of taxpayer-financed corporate office renovations. Add to this the Iraq war, which is six years old this month, and a national debt that will likely rise by trillions. Such reports provoke fury but after some time, even the righteously indignant can tire and accept the outrageous as status quo.

Ultimately, however, what could keep the lid on unrest is the very issue that has pushed us toward the cliff: our high levels of personal and household debt. The average American owes about $9,000 on credit cards alone. Indebtedness redirects an individual’s energies inward: failing to pay the mortgage and college tuition can bring up feelings of anxiety, shame and a sense of personal failure.

It’s easy to feel that one isn’t working hard enough, that one should try harder to save money or take on additional work. To rebel publicly, even to engage politically, would mean exposing your own inadequacies, so most people just hunker down and keep plugging away at those monthly payments.

As our shame grows, we shutter ourselves inside. Afraid of acknowledging our anger and unable to join those similarly suffering, we grow distant. Worse, we judge quickly and harshly the actions of others; we devolve into snark, which will never lead to meaningful change.

To restore our social bonds, each one of us must overcome our isolating feelings of embarrassment and humiliation and understand that this is a shared plight. We’ll also have to accept that anger, real anger, has a role to play in producing collective catharsis and fostering healing.

Fury, after all, can manifest itself in more productive ways than urban rioting or cable-TV ranting. Fury can inspire real protest, nonviolent civil disobedience, even good old-fashioned, town-hall meetings. That’s how we’ll recover our public life and perhaps help one another through this crisis — storming angrily into the streets and then, once we’re out there, actually talking to one another.


Sudhir Venkatesh, a professor of sociology at Columbia, is the author of “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.

 

Imported from BlueGreenEarth / ESEI, at: http://www.myspace.com/socialecologyinstituteeu

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski