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Strength in Numbers


By Simon Hardy, Anticapitalist Initiative (Britain)

October 9, 2012 –  Submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

The urgent need for unity on the radical left is something that has been eloquently put forward by Dan Hind on the Al-Jazeera website. Asking a very pertinent question as to whether there can be a SYRIZA-type organisation in Britain, Hind draws out some of the most important lessons of the Greek struggle and poses a challenge to the British left — can we break out of the ghetto as well?[1]

To plot a possible trajectory we have to be clear of the political alignment that has emerged for the left under the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. While Ed Miliband’s Labour Party might be surging ahead in the polls, the possibility of a Labour left revival is simply not on the cards. The Labour Party is hollowed out and bureaucratically controlled and all the best intentions and actions of Labour left activists will not change that. The Labour left is reduced to the old argument that there is nothing credible outside the Labour Party. They mockingly point to all the twisted contortions of the far left in Britain in the last decade (Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Respect, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Left list, Respect renewal, etc.) to forge a new unity and conclude that the Labour Party is the only show in town.

But this is not an argument made from the Labour Party left’s strength, it is an argument about the radical left’s weakness. They cannot point to any meaningful gains made by the Labour left in recent years because there hasn’t been any. Even the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the only significant bastion of the socialist left in the party, has failed to grow. On the crucial issue of the coalition government’s spending cuts they couldn’t even get any commitment from their municipal councillors to vote against cuts to local government budgets. Some have claimed that the Labour Party could act as a dented shield against the coalition onslaught, but the truth is that the Labour Party is no shield at all.

The most significant recent press offensive by the Labour Party has been to force the government to re-examine the west-coast mainline rail franchise deal, not to re-nationalise it but to try and keep Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains on the line. Yet barely a peep about the privatisation of the National Health Service, including privatising the pharmacies, some of which are also being taken over by Branson’s Virgin company.

The Labour left is generally principled on issues like privatisation and fighting austerity, but they are drowned out by the party apparatus, which is overwhelmingly neoliberal and anti-socialist. John McDonnell’s failure to even get on the leadership ballot in 2010 speaks volumes. As does the obvious non-growth of the labour left activist base. The magazine Labour Briefing, which recently became the official organ of the LRC, probably has a readership of around 500-600 people, smaller than some of the revolutionary left newspapers.

This is not to say that the Labour left has no role to play – far from it – they should just face reality squarely in the face and realise that reclaiming the Labour Party is a dead-end project.

But there is some truth in their criticism of the revolutionary left. Even where we have built new organisations that looked like they were about to achieve lift off (Respect, SSP), they collapsed in ignominy, usually caused by ego clashes and ridiculous control freakery by various organisations. While some of us criticised the political basis of these projects, the reality is that the political weaknesses barely even had time to come to the surface – the inveterate problems of the far left ran these initiatives into the ground long before they even had a chance to be put to the test of any kind of political power.

So a Labour left that can’t get anywhere and a revolutionary left that can’t get anywhere.

What lessons can we draw from these ”realities”? Certainly pessimism, although understandable, would be the wrong conclusion. The lesson of SYRIZA shows what can be done if the left gets its act together, puts aside its own empire-building projects and tries to do something that might actually make a difference. We have to start from the objective situation and work backwards – the reality of the cuts and a potential lost decade to austerity needs to sharpen our minds and our resolve. Starting from the necessity of a united, credible left we can work backwards to imagine the steps that we can take to get there.

I would go so far as to say that anyone at the present time who opposes attempts towards greater unity is, perhaps unconsciously, holding back the movement. The crisis is so acute and the tasks of the hour so urgent that we have no time for people who spend their hours constructing excuses for fragmentation, isolation and weakness. They are the past, and we desperately need a future.

Dan Hind is right and his voice joins a growing chorus of others who see the need for unity on the left. Does this mean every sect and group can just get together? No, of course real differences emerge. But there is so much that unites us in the current political context that it is criminal – absolutely criminal – that none of the larger groups are seriously talking about launching a new united organisation. The three-way division of the anti-cuts movement is the bitter fruit of this backward attitude on the British left — a situation that should deservedly make us a laughing stock in other countries.

If the success of SYRIZA raises the benchmark for what the left can achieve then the natural next question is, “How could we create an organisation like SYRIZA in Britain?“ I think this question should dominate the discussions on the left in the coming months. But let’s be clear – I am not saying we should just transplant SYRIZA’s program and constitution and graft it onto the British left. Such an attempt would be artificial. An organisation like SYRIZA means a coalition of the radical left, united against austerity, united against privatisation, united in action and united in fighting social oppression. The kind of program that any new initiative adopts is largely the result of who is involved in it, certainly it should have an anti-capitalist basis, though it can leave some of the bigger questions unresolved, at least initially.

Let’s focus on the goals that Hind identifies: “campaign for an end to the country’s predatory foreign policy, for the dismantling of the offshore network, for democratic control of the central banks, urgent action to address the threat of catastrophic climate change, and reform of the national media regimes.”

Each constituency does not need to dissolve itself, we just need to ensure checks and balances to prevent “swamping” of meetings. Each local unit of the organisation would retain certain autonomy while a national committee was permitted to adopt political lines, within the remits established at a conference. If an organisation or individual does not like any of the policies then they should have full freedom to speak their mind about it, while accepting that there is unity in the campaigns and actions the organisations agrees to pursue.

Everyone has to accept that they might be minoritised at some point. But they also have to understand that abandoning the organisation over a constitutional dispute or over this or that policy means abandoning the vital struggle for building a credible radical left in this country. Do people want us to live in glorious isolation for another decade or more, as people’s living standards plummet?

We also have to overcome the very real difference in size between constituent parts on the left. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) for instance is still the largest group on the radical left in Britain, although it is much smaller than it was when I joined the left in 2001. Members of the SWP argue that launching a new party is not practical because, as they will numerically “dominate it”, it would cause problems (as it has in the past). But there are a number of ways to overcome this, if there is a political will to make it happen. Changing the culture on the left also means changing how we “intervene” into campaigns or broad organisations, and taking a more open approach, transforming sects into networks and “giving of yourself” for the greater need of the new organisation, these can all be thoroughly healthy steps to take.

Possible alternatives, definite pitfalls

The danger is that the left attempts some kind of united initiative, but limits it to an electoral coalition – replicating the Socialist Alliance (1999-2004) but without the enthusiasm. While a genuine socialist alliance would be a step forward from the current situation, it will suffer the same crisis as the last version, where all the left groups did their campaigning work under their own banners but stood together only in the election.

Let’s put it bluntly, British people generally don’t vote for electoral coalitions. They are here today and gone tomorrow, people respect the concept of a party or at least something more tangible that looks like it is going to last beyond the next internal spat. The Scottish Socialist Party was credible because it was united and forced the smaller groups involved to campaign as SSP activists first and foremost. Putting party before sect is essential to the success of any project, just as it was in the early days of the Labour Party or any of the Communist parties internationally.

The Respect débâcle shows the danger of personality politics (the “great man” view of politics, when the entire project is hung around one person’s neck). But its fragmentation also shows what happens when large constituent groups (in this case the SWP) act like control freaks and treat a coalition like their personal property. Although they blamed the disastrous outcome on John Rees, the fact is that the entire party was complicit in the mistakes that were made, both opportunism in political terms and bad practice in the organisational centre of the party. It was a feeling of loss of control when Galloway started to criticise the SWP’s handling of Respect that led the SWP leadership to “go nuclear” in the words of one protagonist.[2] While we can be critical of the conduct of Galloway and some of his positions, the complaint about organisational manoeuvres and people swamping meetings is one that many on the left will be sadly familiar with. This kind of practice must stop.

The political problem with Respect was not so much its “liberal” program, at the end of the day it was largely old Labour social democratic in much of what it said, the unstable core at the heart of it was the drive for electoral success with people who had no real interests in extra-parliamentary movements and struggles. A temporary alliance with careerists can come back to bite you, as it did for Respect in the east end of London, where Respect councillors jumped ship, first to the Tories and Liberal Democrats and then to Labour.

Again this points up the importance of political movements on the streets and in the workplaces as being paramount, with elections as a subordinate part of that strategy. Moreover, it means a much more democratic and accountable relationship between any elected representatives and the rank and file members, one where they are subordinated to the wider organisation and struggle, and not seen as its “leaders” merely because they have been elected to a position within the capitalist state. This is a point that SYRIZA will also have to debate out in the coming months.

Today the remains of the cycle of left unity initiatives exists in the form of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), an electoral alliance between the SWP and the Socialist Party (CWI), as well as a handful of independents. But again the TUSC only exists for elections and has no activist base. It seems to be doubtful that the TUSC can be transformed into something better; rather it appears to be a marriage of convenience for the two bigger Trotskyist groups. Its last conference had less than 60 people at it, despite the fact that the combined membership of the constituent groups must be over 1000 – real decisions are of course taken by the SWP and SP party leaderships.

While the past should not be forgotten, it can be forgiven, if people can prove their earnest support for a new initiative. Otherwise we are locked in a vicious circle with no way out.

Differences with SYRIZA

Regardless of the subjective problems of the British left’s sect-building ethos, there are two objective problems if we consider ourselves in relation to what the Greek left has achieved. The first is that SYRIZA’s success is clearly the result of a country in complete meltdown. Wage cuts of 40% and closure of important services is at a qualitatively higher level than anything we have in Britain… so far. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that only around 10% of the cuts have gone through, so worse is to come.

Second, Syriza was launched in 2004 and has had the best part of a decade to build up its support in elections before the explosion in 2012. In most elections they received around 5% of the vote, which to the British left would be nothing short of a breakthrough. Patience and a long-term view of politics is essential to make such a project work. But then, maybe the British “explosion” will happen sooner since any new organisation built will be involved in tenacious struggle against austerity from day one.

We also could not limit ourselves to electoral politics as SYRIZA seems to have an inclination to do. While some of the more radical elements within the coalition are organising forums and initiatives outside of the parliamentary process, it is essential as part of our strategy to see elections as a subordinate part of the wider struggle, not the primary focus. If SYRIZA imagines that it can really reverse the austerity measures and revive Greece only through governing the capitalist state they will be in for a rude shock. When it comes to Greece’s political and economic future, the European Central Bank and the leaders of France and Germany, not to mention the Greek capitalist class, are all in a far more powerful position than the parliament in Athens; removing their support and control mechanisms would be a crucial task for any radical government.

Campaigning for a united, radical left formation in Britain should be an essential part of the Anticapitalist Initiative’s (ACI) work in the coming months and years. Even more so, 2013 should be the year that serious steps are made to bring together a re-alignment on the left. We have had our fingers burnt in the past, but we cannot let past failures haunt us. If we fail to rise to the challenge, then we will deserve the defeats inflicted on us by the ruling class.

But the working class and the poor do not deserve them. It is not their fault the left is so weak – it’s ours. Now we have to get our house in order so that we can create a movement that can fight austerity and challenge capitalism.

Simon Hardy is a member of the new Anticapitalist Initiative (ACI), which, according to its website, seeks “to search out avenues for unity and co-operation that presents radical and socialist ideas in a way that is more appealing to new layers of activists. We will promote activity and struggle that aims to overcome division and sectarianism and points the way to a new type of society without exploitation and oppression.”



[1] Read Dan Hind’s article here It subsequently drew a critically examination from Socialist Workers Party member Richard Seymour at his Lenin’s Tomb blog

[2] See and also

Originally at LINKS: International Journal of Socialist Renewal:


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It’s Crisis Time!



1st December 2012

Queen Mary College, University of London

Mile End



Since the financial crisis broke we have seen a rising tide of protest, revolutions and resistance.

One of the driving forces of these movements has been a desire to change the future: to reject the idea that we have no future outside of the logic of never ending austerity, declining living standards and the loss of public services to private profiteers.

Up the Anti is a one day conference to think about and discuss  how we lay claim to the future that we want and deserve. It will host an eclectic mix of sessions, ranging from in-depth seminars and debates to participatory, facilitated discussions and workshops. There are many questions we need to ask, including:

Is there an alternative to capitalism? What might it look like?

How do we win popular support for new radical projects?

What can we learn from the social struggles and new movements in Europe?

And how do we overcome divisions within left and radical movements?

What next after the Occupy protests?


We called the event ‘Up the Anti’ because we all agree that we need to build a bigger movement against social oppression and capitalism.  But we are not just against things; we also want to reclaim the future from those in power who seem intent on dragging us towards austerity, growing social inequality and environmental destruction.

The conference will be held in London at Queen Mary College, University of London, not far from Mile End and Stepney Green underground stations.

But the day is not just all workshops and seminars, we also have time for a gig at Queen Mary Student Union with comedy, music and DJs. Highlights include the up and coming radical comedian Chris Coltrane and the critically acclaimed blues guitarist Sean Taylor.

UP THE ANTI is a genuine movement event put on by a plurality of groups, websites, publishing houses, and networks. It is sponsored by New Left Project, Ceasefire, Occupied Times, Anticapitalist Initiative, Platypus and Globalise Resistance.

UP THE ANTI Conference Website:


‘Human Herbs’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:


Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas:


Online Publications at:


I ♥ Transcontinental: 


Glenn Rikowski


Sunday – 02.12.12 – Sympathetic Materialism – An Evening with Allan Sekula

1. Introduction to Sunday
2. A note on sympathetic materialism
3. Untitled preface to Waiting for Tear Gas
4. Lottery of the Sea: Prologue and Ending
5. The Forgotten Space – screening at MoMA, Monday, 02.13.11
6. Related readings/viewings
7. Filmography
8. About Allan Sekula

1. Introduction to Sunday

What: A screening and conversation with Allan Sekula
Where: 16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
When: 7pm
Who: Free and open to all

We propose to organize this evening’s discussion with Allan into two parts, which we’re calling “world” and “globe.”

Looking back at the recent resurgence of anticapitalist street protest in the US, we would like to begin with a look at his documentation of the Seattle counterglobalization demonstrations of 1999.

Looking forward to the screening of his newest film, The Forgotten Space, the following day (Monday), we’ll look at some of his other work that engages globalization and maritime space.

— Part 1 – World – Waiting for Tear Gas [White Globe to Black] (1999–2000)

Taken on the streets of Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests, Waiting for Tear Gas is a sequence of color slides that sketches a kind of group portrait of the demonstrators. Ben Young will open the discussion with a set of questions and proposals raised by looking at Waiting for Tear Gas today, especially after the renewal of anticapitalist street demonstrations in the US by Occupy Wall Street. Some of these include: the persistence of the human figure after humanism; the genre of the (group) portrait in an age of individuals; the ethics and politics of care in the face of social and economic violence; waiting as an experience of exposure, radical passivity, means without ends, or messianic time; the tempo of attentive expectation  that runs counter to the insistent rush of direct action; the street as a space of appearance that is both material and virtual; and what the practice of “antiphotojournalism” (as Sekula calls it) and the reinvention of documentary look like today, especially in the context of social media.

— Part 2 – Globe – Lottery of the Sea: Prologue and Ending (2006, 25 min.)

If the world is a form of relating to others, a continually renewed set of social bonds, then the globe can be understood as the instrumental grasping of the earth as a map, as a tool, as a space to be measured, calculated, and mastered. While much recent criticism of capitalism has focused on the financialization of the world, Sekula has been engaged in the long-term investigation of the material circuits of manufacturing and commodity exchange, focusing on the ocean as the unseen matrix of globalization. We’ll get a sense of this work by screening the prologue and ending to his video Lottery of the Sea. This is partly a tale of the mobility of capital, under the flag of convenience, chasing profits across the globe by evading limits on environmental damage and exploiting the poorest workers; it also pictures something like the promise of a world community that capital establishes materially but prevents politically. At the same time, this work also helps mark Sekula’s shift from “disassembled movies” created with still photography to the essay film, and what he had earlier resisted as “the tyranny of the projector.” How has this also shifted the balance between the triad of literature, painting, cinema that framed his earlier work, and what does it mean for art, documentary, or antiphotojournalism?

We hope that looking at both works together will open up a discussion to which many voices will contribute.

2. A note on sympathetic materialism

“Sympathetic materialism” is a term Allan Sekula has used to describe a solidarity “born of seasickness” in certain seafaring writers accustomed to the long duration of ocean travel. But it can equally be applied to his own work: the patient, careful attention of the photographer to the conditions and details of everyday life seen from below, especially the impingements and labors of the body.

As a writer, he has criticized the latent humanism of much social documentary, on one hand, and the dream of autonomy in formalist aesthetics, on the other. As a photographer, he has cannily reworked the photo and text-based series inherited from conceptual art, continually questioning the fullness and sufficiency of any single image. But this emphasis on questioning images is not a simple negation or refusal of the particular, the phenomenological, or the aesthetic. Rather, by arranging pictures into sequences and often paring them with text, his is a materialism attentive to the manifold surfaces of the world, one that seeks to forge links within this profusion of details. It is also a materialism that returns again and again to the human figure in its milieu: not only in the workplace, but also the in-between spaces of transit, transport, and circulation, as well as the spaces of unemployment and unworking–at the margins of work and exchange. This is perhaps partly what led him to the sea as the vantage point for much of his work of the last twenty years.

In the reversal of perspective produced by going to sea, it may no longer be possible to hold onto the earth, or the space of the street, as the static ground of life or politics; instead, when viewed from the ocean, the land becomes another island or ship floating alongside us. And we know that the water does not raise all boats, but can sink them too. If the capitalist order forces us all to sea, it threatens us not only with seasickness, but total wreckage. It may then be a question of cultivating something like sympathetic materialism among those in the lifeboats.

–Benjamin Young

3. Allan Sekula, untitled preface to Waiting for Tear Gas [White Globe to Black] (1999-2000)

In photographing the Seattle demonstrations the working idea was to move with the flow of protest, from dawn to 3 AM if need be, taking in the lulls, the waiting and the margins of events. The rule of thumb for this sort of anti-photojournalism: no flash, no telephoto lens, no gas mask, no auto-focus, no press pass and no pressure to grab at all costs the one defining image of dramatic violence.

Later, working at the light table, and reading the increasingly stereotypical descriptions of the new face of protest, I realized all the more that a simple descriptive physiognomy was warranted. The alliance on the streets was indeed stranger, more varied and inspired than could be conveyed by cute alliterative play with “teamsters” and “turtles.”

I hoped to describe the attitudes of people waiting, unarmed, sometimes deliberately naked in the winter chill, for the gas and the rubber bullets and the concussion grenades. There were moments of civic solemnity, of urban anxiety, and of carnival.

Again, something very simple is missed by descriptions of this as a movement founded in cyberspace: the human body asserts itself in the city streets against the abstraction of global capital. There was a strong feminist dimension to this testimony, and there was also a dimension grounded in the experience of work. It was the men and women who work on the docks, after all, who shut down the flow of metal boxes from Asia, relying on individual knowledge that there is always another body on the other side of the sea doing the same work, that all this global trade is more than a matter of a mouse-click.

One fleeting hallucination could not be photographed. As the blast of stun grenades reverberated amidst the downtown skyscrapers, someone with a boom box thoughtfully provided a musical accompaniment: Jimi Hendrix’s mock-hysterical rendition of the American national anthem. At that moment, Hendrix returned to the streets of Seattle, slyly caricaturing the pumped-up sovereignty of the world’s only superpower.

–from Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair, and Allan Sekula, Five Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond_ (London: Verso, 2000). Also available online:

4. Lottery of the Sea: Prologue and Ending (2006, 25 min.)

The Lottery of the Sea takes its title from Adam Smith, who in his famous Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations (1776) compared the life of the seafarer to gambling. Thus notions of risk were introduced by Smith through an allegory of the sea’s dangers especially for those who did the hard work, and also for those who invested in ships and goods. The film asks: is there a relationship between the most frightening and terrifying concept in economics, that of risk, and the category of the sublime in aesthetics?

It is an offbeat diary extending from the presumably “innocent” summer of 2001 through to the current “war on terror” by way of a meandering, essayistic voyage from seaport to seaport, waterfront to waterfront, and coast to coast. What does it mean to be a maritime nation? To rule the waves? Or to harvest the sea? An American submarine collides with a Japanese fisheries training ship. What does this suggest about the division of labor in the Pacific? Panama decides whether to expand the width of its canal, over which it now exercises a certain qualified measure of sovereignty. How is it that a scuba diver would be most prepared to question this great flushing of the jungle watershed? Galicia is presented with an unwanted gift of oil, with important questions following about the monomania of governments able only to conceptualize danger in one dimension. Barcelona turns anew to its seafront, producing a pseudo-public sphere and new real estate value to the north and even greater maritime logistical efficiency to the south. In between, we visit blizzards and demonstrations in New York, drifting prehistoric mastodons in Los Angeles, militant drummers and bemused African construction workers in Lisbon, millionaires or millionaire-impersonators in Amsterdam, and the stray dogs of Athens, all by way of thinking through seeing the sea, the market, and democracy.

5. The Forgotten Space – screening at MoMA, Monday, 02.13.11

What: screening and discussion of The Forgotten Space with Allan Sekula
Where: Museum of Modern Art, theater 2
When: 7pm

The Forgotten Space (dir. Allan Sekula and Noël Burch) follows container cargo aboard ships, barges, trains and trucks, listening to workers, engineers, planners, politicians, and those marginalized by the global transport system. We visit displaced farmers and villagers in Holland and Belgium, underpaid truck drivers in Los Angeles, seafarers aboard mega-ships shuttling between Asia and Europe, and factory workers in China, whose low wages are the fragile key to the whole puzzle. And in Bilbao, we discover the most sophisticated expression of the belief that the maritime economy, and the sea itself, is somehow obsolete.

A range of materials is used: descriptive documentary, interviews, archive stills and footage, clips from old movies. The result is an essayistic, visual documentary about one of the most important processes that affects us today. The Forgotten Space is based on Sekula’s Fish Story, seeking to understand and describe the contemporary maritime world in relation to the complex symbolic legacy of the sea.

6. Related readings/viewings

——Waiting for Tear Gas——-

Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair, and Allan Sekula, ‘Five Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond’ (London: Verso, 2000).

Allan Sekula, ‘TITANIC’s wake’, (Cherbourg-Octeville, France: Le Point du Jour Editeur, 2003)

——The Forgotten Space——-

The Forgotten Space (website):

Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, “Notes on the Forgotten Space”

Discussion with Benjamin Buchloh, David Harvey, and Allan Sekula after a screening of The Forgotten Space at Cooper Union, May 2011 (21 min.):

——other works on globalization and maritime space——-

Sekula interview with Grant Watson, “Ship of Fools” (22 min.):

Allan Sekula, “Between the Net and the Deep Blue Sea (Rethinking the Traffic in Photographs),” October 102 (Fall 2002): 3–34.

Sekula, ‘Fish Story’ (Rotterdam and Dusseldorf: Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and Richter Verlag, 1995).

Sekula, ‘Deep Six/Passer au bleu’ (Calais: Musée des Beaux Arts, 2001).

‘Allan Sekula: Dead Letter Office’ (Rotterdam: Netherlands Foto Instituut, 1997).

Sekula, ‘Performance Under Working Conditions’ (Vienna: Generali Foundation, 2003).

7. Filmography

The Forgotten Space (2010, with Noël Burch)
The Lottery of the Sea (2006)
Short Film for Laos (2006)
Gala (2005)
Tsukiji (2001)
Reagan Tape (1984, with Noël Burch)
Talk Given by Mr. Fred Lux at the Lux Clock Manufacturing Plant in Lebanon, Tennessee, on Wednesday, September 15, 1954 (1974)
Performance under Working Conditions (1973)

8. About Allan Sekula

Allan Sekula is an artist, photographer, writer, and, more recently, film and video maker. Since the mid-1970s he has exhibited and published many photography-based works; he is also the author of a number of key essays in the history of photography (including “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning,” “Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary,” “The Traffic in Photographs,” and “The Body and the Archive”).

Recent works Ship of Fools (1990–2010) and Dockers’ Museum (2010) are currently on view in “Oceans and Campfires: Allan Sekula and Bruno Serralongue,” San Francisco Art Institute; earlier works are currently included in “State Of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970,” Orange County Museum of Art; “Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974–1981,” Museum of Contemporary Art, LA; and “Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph 1964-1977,” Art Institute of Chicago. Polonia and Other Fables (2009) was recently on view at the Renaissance Society, Chicago; Zacheta Gallery, Warsaw; and the Ludwig Museum, Budapest.

16 Beaver Group
16 Beaver Street, 4th fl.
New York, NY 10004

For directions/subscriptions/info visit:

4,5 — Bowling Green
2,3 — Wall Street
J,Z —  Broad Street
R — Whitehall
1 — South Ferry



‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: (recording) and (live)


‘Maximum levels of boredom

Disguised as maximum fun’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Stagnant’ at: (recording) and (live, at the Belle View pub, Bangor, north Wales)  


‘Human Herbs’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:

‘Stagnant’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:  

‘Cheerful Sin’ – a song by Victor Rikowski:

‘The Lamb’ by William Blake – set to music by Victor Rikowski:


Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas:

MySpace Profile:

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:

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The Centre for Cultural Studies Research, University of East London, presents:
The Art of Protest

A seminar to mark the launch of Fight Back! A reader on the winter protests (see

March 2nd 2011, 14:00-17:00


Dan Hancox
Pow! in Parliament Square: Riot music and the kettled generation

Dan Hancox is a freelance journalist writing on music and politics for The Guardian, New Statesman and others, and the editor of Fight Back! A reader on the winter of protest.

Jesse Darling
[Protest] Signs and the Signified: handmade propaganda in the age of the branded demographic.

Jesse Darling is a journeyman auto-ethnographer and artist of many media working in /dasein/ by design and the performance of everyday life. JD lives on the fringes of London and wherever.

Adam Harper
The Art and Reality of Protest

Adam Harper blogs on aesthetics and criticism in music, art and life at Rouge’s Foam. He has written for The Guardian and Wire magazine and is the author of Infinite Music: Imagining the Next Millennium of Human Music-making, forthcoming for Zer0 books.

Steve Goodman
Steve Goodman is author of ‘Sonic Warfare: sound, affect & the ecology of fear’, MIT Press, 2010. He also runs the record label Hyperdub, and DJs/produces under the name Kode9.

Andrew Blake
Andrew Blake is currently Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of East London, and a saxophonist and composer. His books on music include The Land without Music: Music, Culture and Society in Twentieth Century Britain (1997), the edited collection Living through Pop (1999), and most recently Popular Music: the Age of Multimedia (2007). He contributed to the Cambridge History of Twentieth Century Music and the Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music. He is also the author of books on sport, consumer culture, and fiction,including The Irresistible Rise of Harry Potter, which has been translated into six languages.

Chair: Jeremy GIlbert
author of Anticapitalism and Culture (Berg 2008)

For more Information and for a full audio recording of recent events in the centre see:

Location: UEL Docklands Campus
Transport: Cyprus DLR station is located right next to the campus (just follow signs out of the station)

Room  EB.1.07
(First Floor, East Building, which is to the left on entering the main square from Cyprus station
Upon entering the building from the main square, take the first staircase on the right, to the first floor, and follow signs to Eb.1.07)

All Welcome – no booking required
For further info:


‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: (recording) and (live)

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas:

MySpace Profile:

The Ockress:

Rikowski Point:


Manifesto against Labour


Krisis Group



Manifesto against Labour, written by the Krisis Group (Krisis Gruppe) on 31st December 1999. In the current crisis of capital it is more relevant than ever. There is also a Foreword by Norbert Trenkle.




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History and Helplessness: Mass Mobilization and Contemporary Forms of Anticapitalism


An Article by Moishe Postone, Public Culture, (2006) Vol.18 No.1, pp.93-110: Originated from the Chicago Political Workshop:



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Feeling Too Down to Rise Up

The New York Times, 28th March 2009


Feeling Too Down to Rise Up

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.


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Marxism 2009 – A Festival of Resistance




Marxism 2009 – a festival of resistance

Thursday 2nd – Monday 6th July 2009, central London



Phone: 020 7819 1190

Over 1,000 people have already bought tickets for Marxism 2009. We are now entering the last full week of the £5 discount on Marxism tickets: get yours now at: or call us in the office on 020 7819 1190.

With the current £5 discount, prices are: Waged – £40, Unwaged – £27, HE student – £20, FE student – £10.

Remember, if you can’t afford to pay now but want to get the £5 discount you can register before 31st March and postdate your payment – just give us a call in the office: 020 7819 1190.

Highlights include:

* Alex Callinicos vs Slavoj Zizek – a debate on “What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?”

* David Harvey on Marx’s Capital and debating Chris Harman on “The crisis of neoliberalism”

* Tariq Ali on Pakistan’s deepening crisis

* Terry Eagleton on “Socialism and culture”

* Sheila Rowbotham discusses pioneering gay rights campaigner Edward Carpenter

* Gary Younge speaks on Obama’s rise to power

* Ghada Karmi participates in a course of meetings on Palestinian liberation

* Michael Billington and Sam West take part in a tribute to Harold Pinter

* Bernadette McAliskey speaks 40 years on from her election to parliament and the Battle of the Bogside

* John Bellamy Foster takes part in a course on “Marx and Darwin” and speaks on Marxist ecology

Other participants include: Tony Benn, Paul Gilroy, Eamonn McCann, Mark Serwotka, Sally Hunt, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Nick Broomfield, Michael Rosen, Istvan Meszaros, Roy Bailey and David Ferrard, Pat Devine, Danny Dorling, Zoe Williams, David Edgar, Haifa Zangana, Steven Rose, Ambalavaner Sivanandan, Ben Fine, Ron Oppenheim and Natalie Adler, Jeremy Dear, Ludi Simpson, Leo Zeilig, Graham Turner, Chris Searle, Adam Tooze, Costas Lapavitsas, Omar Puente… and many more!

Courses and meetings include: Capital for beginners * The Marxist method * The economic crisis – causes, consequences and questions * Resistance and recession in Britain * The culture of crisis * The International Socialist tradition * 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet block – before, during and after * Islam and Islamism * Lenin and Leninism * Trotsky * Revolution and beyond * Racism, segregation and multiculturalism * British society today * The fight against fascism * Women’s liberation * LGBT rights * The US – then and now * China – from Mao to markets * Imperialism today and the “war on terror” * Pakistan * Voices from the Middle East * Palestine’s fight for freedom * Latin America * Africa * Climate Change – saving the planet * Darwin and Marx – evolution revolution * Education * Students and the struggle * Capitalism and the media



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With Doug Henwood and A. Shaikh is …

NEXT Thursday, December 4, 7:00 PM
@ New York University, 19 University Place, Room 102, New York


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Anticapitalism and Culture
Radical Theory and Popular Politics

Jeremy Gilbert

Berg 2008

This book stages a dialogue between the radical tradition within cultural studies and the politics and ideas of the global ‘anticapitalist’ movement. Opening with a political history of cultural studies, which locates the development of the discipline – up to the present day – in its changing intellectual and political context, it goes on to consider the parallel history of the ‘movement of movements’ and the World Social Forum process. It addresses the broader question of what it means to be ‘anti-capitalist’ at the levels of cultural theory and political practice, and considers the comparative uses of the ideas of Deleuze & Guattari, Laclau & Mouffe and Hardt & Negri for cultural and political analysis. The book offers a concise analysis of the opportunities and obstacles facing radical politics at the beginning of the 21st century, and concludes with an assessment of the relative weight given to ideas of strategy, tactics, hegemony and partisanship within contemporary radical thought

Jeremy Gilbert
School of Social Sciences, Media & Cultural Studies
University of East London
6 University Way
E16 2RD



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