Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Richard Pithouse

John Holloway

POLITICS AT A DISTANCE FROM THE STATE

A conference titled ‘Politics at a distance from the state’ is being held on 29th and 30th of September 2012 at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

The conference is intended as a space at which academics and activists sympathetic to or supportive of ‘politics at a distance from the state’ can openly and freely explore, discuss and debate this idea and form of politics. The conference arose in the light of the visit later this year to Rhodes University by John Holloway and Jacques Depelchin, both of whom will be in attendance at the conference. The conference seeks to consider anti-statist politics in South Africa and beyond.

Political practices in South Africa, since the end of Apartheid, have been dominated by state-centric forms of politics under the hegemony of the African National Congress (ANC). Although state-centred struggle and the capturing of state power were embedded – as important trajectories – within the anti-Apartheid organizations of the 1970s and 1980s, there was also a pronounced anti-statist tendency that sought to build alternative forms of communality in a pre-figurative way. Of significance in this regard was the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Black trade union movement. In large part, with the de-mobilization of anti-Apartheid struggles in the 1990s and a technocratic, neo-liberal programme pursued vigorously by the ANC state since 1994, anti-statist politics in contemporary South Africa are heavily compromised and marginalised. This form is politics is also rarely discussed in the academia. The conference, in its South African focus, seeks to revisit the struggles of the 1970s and 1980s and, in so doing, to identify and articulate the anti-statist moments inherent in them. Activists centrally involved in the BCM, UDF and trade union movement will be present to facilitate and contribute to these discussions. The three leading academics in South Africa who presently think and theorise about politics at a distance from the state will also be in attendance, namely, Michael Neocosmos, Richard Pithouse and Lucien van der Walt (co-author of Black Flame, 2009). As well, community activists and groups in South Africa supportive of and pursuing ‘at a distance’ politics, such as the shack-dweller movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, will be present.

The conference seeks to locate South African politics in the broader, more global, debates and activism. Academically, John Holloway’s book Change the World without Taking Power (2002) ignited an intense debate a decade ago about emancipatory politics and change; this work though spoke directly to the lived experiences and everyday politics of the Zapatista movement in southern Mexico. His overall critique of state-centred change is not an entirely new argument but his Autonomist Marxist perspective is certainly rich in nuanced insights about the prospects for interstitial revolution today. Jacques Depelchin, the highly esteemed Congolese historian, has – with Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba – tried to rethink politics in the Congo in Africa. The critique of state-centric emancipation has deep roots in Anarchist theory (and practice), and reaches back to the debates between Marx and Bakhunin. Over the last few decades, post-Anarchism (as a ‘fusion’ of Anarchism and post-Structuralism) has emerged (for instance the works of Richard Day and David Graeber), claiming that many of the localized struggles taking place globally have anarchistic principles (such as pre-figuration) embedded within them. Simultaneously, a range of other (often older, ex-Marxist) scholars – in the ongoing light of Paris ’68 – have constantly highlighted the significance of anti-statist politics (beyond ‘the political’) for authentic emancipatory processes. Of particular importance in this regard are Jacques Ranciere and Alain Baidou – it is from the latter that the title for the conference is taken.

Crucial differences exist between the different theoretical and political tendencies highlighted above. But they all share a comment interest in questioning emancipation in and through the state, and in exploring the possibilities and actualities of a lived immanent politics (some call it a living communism) taking place in the interstices of the current capitalist and hierarchical order. It is this shared common interest that forms of the basis for the ‘at a distance’ conference.

The conference is specifically designed for academics and activists with a particular interest in engaging constructively with politics at a distance from the state. This gathering is the first of its kind in post-Apartheid South Africa and it should appeal not only to individuals and groups within South Africa but also to individuals and groups outside South Africa who wish to engage through an interchange of ideas and practices with like-minded academics and activists in Africa.

The format for the conference has yet to be decided upon. But it will be as informal as possible yet very vigorous and engaging. It will entail a number of conversations in which all will equally participate.

For any further information, please contact:
Kirk Helliker, Sociology, Rhodes University: k.helliker@ru.ac.za
Richard Pithouse, Politics, Rhodes University: r.pithouse@ru.ac.za 

**END**

‘Human Herbs’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au-vyMtfDAs

‘Stagnant’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkP_Mi5ideo  

‘Cheerful Sin’ – a song by Victor Rikowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIbX5aKUjO8

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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

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

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

Social Movements

INTERFACE – A JOURNAL FOR AND ABOUT SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Interface – A Journal For and About Social Movements

Call for papers – Issue 3: CRISES, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATIONS

Interface is a new journal produced twice yearly by activists and academics around the world in response to the development and increased visibility of social movements in the last few years – and the immense amount of knowledge generated in this process. This knowledge is created across the globe, and in many contexts and a variety of ways, and it constitutes an incredibly valuable resource for the further development of social movements. Interface responds to this need, as a tool to help our movements learn from each other’s struggles, by developing analyses and knowledge that allow lessons to be learned from specific movement processes and experiences and translated into a form useful for other movements.

We welcome contributions by movement participants and academics who are developing movement-relevant theory and research. Our goal is to include material that can be used in a range of ways by movements – in terms of its content, its language, its purpose and its form. We are seeking work in a range of different formats, such as conventional articles, review essays, facilitated discussions and interviews, action notes, teaching notes, key documents and analysis, book reviews – and beyond. Both activist and academic peers review research contributions, and other material is sympathetically edited by peers. The editorial process generally will be geared towards assisting authors to find ways of expressing their understanding, so that we all can be heard across geographical, social and political distances.

Our third issue, to be published in May 2010, will have space for general articles on all aspects of understanding social movements, as well as a special themed section on crises, social movements and revolutionary transformations.

CRISES, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATIONS

“In every country the process is different, although the content is the same. And the content is the crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling class has failed in some major political undertaking, for which it has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of broad masses … or because huge masses … have passed suddenly from a state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, add up to a revolution. A “crisis of authority” is spoken of: this is precisely the crisis of hegemony, or general crisis of the state”

So wrote the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci from behind the walls of Mussolini’s prison, in his famous notes on “State and Civil Society”. His words aptly describe the trajectory of crises in modern history – these are periods when the wheels of economic growth and expansion grind to a halt, when traditional political loyalties melt away, and, crucially, when ruling classes find themselves confronted with popular movements that no longer accept the terms of their rule, and that seek to create alternative social orders.

The clashes between elite projects and popular movements that are at the heart of any “crisis of hegemony” generate thoroughgoing processes of economic, social and political change – these may be reforms that bear the imprint of popular demands, and they may also be changes that reflect the implementation of elite designs. Most importantly, however, crises are typically also those moments when social movements and subaltern groups are able to push the limits of what they previously thought it was possible to achieve in terms of effecting progressive change – it is this dynamic which lies at the heart of revolutionary transformations.

Gramsci himself witnessed, organised within and wrote during the breakdown of liberal capitalism and bourgeois democracy in the 1910s through to the 1930s. This was a conjuncture when tendencies towards stagnation in capitalist accumulation generated the horrors of the First World War and the Great Depression. Movements of workers and colonized peoples threatened the rule of capital and empires, old and new, and elites turned to repressive strategies like fascism in an attempt to secure the continuation of their dominance.

Today social movements are once again having to do their organizing and mobilizing work in the context of economic crisis, one that is arguably of similar proportions to that witnessed by Gramsci, and a political crisis that runs just as deep. The current crisis emerged from the collapse of the US housing market, revealing an intricate web of unsustainable debt and “toxic assets” whose tentacles reached every corner of the global economy. More than just a destruction of “fictitious capital”, the crisis has propelled a breakdown of world industrial production and trade, driving millions of working families to the brink and beyond. And, far from being a one-off, this crisis is the latest and worst in a series of collapses starting with the stock market crash of 1987, the chronic stagnation of the once all-powerful Japanese economy, the Asian financial meltdown of 1997 and the bursting of the dot.com bubble.

The current conjuncture throws into question the fundamentals of the neoliberal project that has been pursued by global elites and transnational institutions over the past three decades. Taking aim at reversing the victories won by popular movements in the aftermath of the Second World War, neoliberalism transferred wealth from popular classes to global elites on a grand scale. The neoliberal project of privatizing the public sector and commodifying public goods, rolling back the welfare states, promoting tax cuts for the rich, manipulating economic crises in the global South and deregulating the world’s financial markets continued unabated through the 1980s and 1990s.

As presaged by Gramsci, neoliberal policies have whittled away the material concessions that underpinned social consensus. Ours is a conjuncture in which global political elites have failed in an undertaking for which they sought popular consent, and as a consequence, popular masses have passed from political passivity to a certain activity.

Since the middle of the 1990s, we have seen the development of large-scale popular movements in several parts of the globe, along with a series of revolutionary situations or transformations in various countries, as well as unprecedented levels of international coordination and alliance-building between movements and direct challenges not only to national but to global power structures. The first stirrings of this activity were in the rise of the Zapatistas in Mexico, the water wars in Bolivia, and the protests on the streets of Seattle. On a global scale we saw dissent explode in the form of opposition to the wars waged by the US on Afghanistan and Iraq. In terms of sheer numbers, the mobilisation of against the latter invasion was the largest political protest ever undertaken, leading the New York Times to call the anti-war movement the world’s “second superpower”.

Each country has had its own movements, and a particular character to how they have moved against the neoliberal project. And for some time many have observed that these campaigns, initiatives and movements are not isolated occurrences, but part of a wider global movement for justice in the face of the neoliberal project. An explosion of analysis looking at these events and movements has occurred in the academic world, matched only by extensive argument and debate within the movements themselves.

In this issue of Interface, we encourage submissions that explore the relationship between crises, social movements and revolutionary transformations in general and the character of the current crisis and how social movements across different regions have related and responded to it in particular. Some of the questions we want to explore are as follows:

– What are the characteristics of the current economic and political crisis, what roles do social movements – from above and below – play in its dynamics, and how does it compare to the political economy of previous cycles of crises and struggle?

– What has been the role played by social movements in moments of crisis in modern history, and what lessons can contemporary popular movements learn from these experiences?

– What kinds of qualitative/quantitative shift in popular mobilisation we might expect to see in a “revolutionary wave”?

– Are crises – and in particular our current crisis – characterized by substantial competitions between different kinds of movements from below? How does such a dynamic affect the capacity to effect radical change?

– What goals do social movements set themselves in context of crisis and what kinds of movement are theoretically or historically capable of bringing about a transformed society?

– What are the criteria of success that activists operate with in terms of the forms of change social movements can achieve in the current conjuncture?

– Is revolutionary transformation a feasible option at present? Is revolution a goal among contemporary social movements?

– What are the characteristic features of elite deployment of coercive strategies when their hegemony is unravelling?

– How have global elites responded to the current crisis in terms of resort to coercion and consent? Have neoliberal elites been successful in trying to reestablish their legitimacy and delegitimizing opponents?

– Are we witnessing any bids for hegemony from elite groups outside the domain of Atlantic neoliberalism?

– How is coercion in its various forms impacting on contemporary social movements and the politics of global justice?

The deadline for contributions for the third issue is January 1, 2010.

Please contact the appropriate editor if you are thinking of submitting an article. You can access the journal and get further details at: http://www.interfacejournal.net/.

Interface is programmatically multilingual: at present we can accept and review submissions in Afrikaans, Catalan, Croatian, Danish, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Maltese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Zulu. We are also willing to try and find suitable referees for submissions in other languages, but cannot guarantee that at this point.

We are also very much looking for activists or academics interested in becoming part of Interface, particularly with the African, South Asian, Spanish-speaking Latin American, East and Central European, Mediterranean, Oceanian and North American groups.

Editorial contacts

Interface is not a traditional, centralised journal with a single key editor! Because we are a global journal, and movements (and their relationships to academia) are organised so differently in different parts of the world, the basic structure of the journal is as a network of regional or linguistically-defined groups, each of which organises its own editorial processes and tries to find an appropriate way of working with its own local realities. Articles and queries should go to the contact person listed below for the relevant region:

Movements in Africa: Please submit papers in Zulu, Afrikaans or English to Richard Pithouse indianocean77@gmail.com; in English to Mammo Muchie mammo@ihis.aau.dk; and in Portuguese to Ana Margarida Esteves anamargarida.esteves@gmail.com.

Movements in the Arab world: Please submit papers in Arabic or English to Rana Barakat barakat.rana@gmail.com or Abdul-Rahim al-Shaikh aalshaikh@birzeit.edu; or in Arabic, English, German or Hebrew to Magid Shihade mshihade@gmail.com.

Movements in Central and South America: Please submit papers in Spanish to Sara Motta saracatherinem@googlemail.com or Adriana Causa acausa@gmail.com and in Portuguese to Ana Margarida Esteves anamargarida.esteves@gmail.com.

Movements in Eastern Europe: Please submit papers in Croatian, English, German, Hungarian, Latvian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian or Turkish to Steffen Böhm steffen@essex.ac.uk or Andrejs Berdnikovs aberdnikovs@gmail.com.

Movements in North America: Please submit papers in English to Ray Sin raysin@ku.edu or Lesley Wood ljwood@yorku.ca.

Movements in South Asia: Please submit papers in English to Alf Nilsen alfgunvald@gmail.com . We are currently looking for another regional editor to work with Alf.

Movements in Southeast Asia and Oceania: Please submit papers in English to Elizabeth Humphrys lizhumphrys@gmail.com, in Spanish to Cristina Flesher Fominaya flesherfomi@gmail.com and in Portuguese to Ana Margarida Esteves anamargarida.esteves@gmail.com.

Movements in Western Europe:
Please submit papers:
* in English to Cristina Flesher Fominaya flesherfomi@gmail.com or Laurence Cox laurence.cox@nuim.ie or
* in French or Italian to Laurence Cox laurence.cox@nuim.ie or
* in German to Steffen Böhm steffen@essex.ac.uk or Laurence Cox laurence.cox@nuim.ie
* in Portuguese to Ana Margarida Esteves anamargarida.esteves@gmail.com
* in Spanish to Cristina Flesher Fominaya flesherfomi@gmail.com
* We can also accept papers in Catalan, Maltese and Norwegian: please contact Laurence Cox laurence.cox@nuim.ie in relation to these.

Transnational Movements:
Please submit papers in English, Dutch, French and Spanish or with special reference to labour or social forums, to Peter Waterman pwaterma@gmail.com; in English, with special reference to dialogue-based movements, to Richard Moore rkm@quaylargo.com; in Arabic, English, German or Hebrew to Magid Shihade mshihade@gmail.com; or in English, French, Italian or German to Laurence Cox laurence.cox@nuim.ie.

Book reviews: In English: please contact Aileen O’Carroll Aileen.OCarroll@nuim.ie.

Movements in Central Asia and East Asia: We are hoping to expand our intellectual and linguistic capacity to include these areas, but at present do not have sufficient editorial expertise to review papers on movements in these regions. Expressions of interest from potential regional editors, willing to help assemble a regional subgroup of academics and activists to review papers on movements in any of these regions, are very welcome.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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