News

WAS MARX A POSTMODERNIST?

January 3rd, 2009

Comedy After Postmodernism: rereading comedy from Edward Lear to Charles Willeford by Kirby Olson (Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock 2001).

Walter Benjamin: overpowering conformism by Esther Leslie (Pluto Press, London 2000).

Due to the differing perspectives of their authors, Leslie’s book on Benjamin which is written from an explicitly Marxist perspective, can be read very productively alongside and against Olson’s avowedly anti-Marxist text on comedy. Both writers combine political and aesthetic positions that would be viewed by many as incompatible. Olson is in many way an old-fashioned liberal with vague anarchist leanings who is attempting to retrench the ways in which the humanities have traditionally been taught by adapting the theories of the post-68 French left figures Deleuze and Lyotard to somewhat unlikely ends. Leslie is an activist in the British Socialist Workers Party who hopes to reclaim Benjamin not just for Marxism, but quite explicitly for Trotskyism too. While Leslie correctly identifies certain similarities between Benjamin’s and Trotsky’s aesthetic positions – a state of affairs that is not entirely surprising to anyone familiar with Trotsky’s writings on art and literature – she certainly faces an uphill struggle if she hopes to make Benjamin a respected figure among the SWP rank-and-file.

Leslie has to defend Benjamin on a number of fronts, both from those who would rewrite him into philosophy, postmodernism and/or cultural studies, and others who claim there are similarities between his thought and that of German revolutionary conservatives (i.e. the strand of German fascism that disdained the Nazi Party as being too plebeian for its aristocratic tastes). Likewise, Leslie sharply criticises the cult that has grown up around Benjamin including the inappropriate use of his image [Read more →]

More Trouble in the Balkans

January 3rd, 2009

The Kosovo war was also an information war that was led surprisingly successful considering how many ‘facts’ had to be made up or twisted. Let’s once again reiterate: In the Yugoslav province of Kosovo there had been an armed insurrection of a nationalist group called the UCK (in the US and UK usually referred to as KLA) with the aim of secession from the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and possibly/ultimately the creation of a Greater Albania. The UCK was supported by the German secret service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) and otherwise financed by “taxes” levied from the Albanian diaspora and by selling Heroin in Europe (already at the end of 1999 Hashim Thacis gang controlled 40% of the European heroin, according to German Unmik police). When the banking system in Albania itself collapsed in 1997 there were widespread riots [Read more →]

Terror Against Terror

January 3rd, 2009

On September 11, 2001, 8.45 am, an American Airlines plane with 92 passengers on board crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Centre in New York City. 18 minutes later, as thick smoke started rising towards the sky, the news of several simultaneous hijackings started making the rounds, as camera teams started assembling and people started fleeing from the burning building, a second plane crashed into the south tower causing a huge fireball as the approximately 40 tons of kerosene in the freshly tanked plane ignited.
The images were replayed thousands of times over the following weeks: less than two hours later the landmark of New York City [Read more →]

REFUGEE SUBJECTIVITY ‘Bare life’ and the geographical division of labour

January 3rd, 2009

In the border country
They’ve done it all
We kept watch
As they smashed the wall

Swell Maps, “Border Country” (1980)

While trans-national institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO clear the way for capital to move freely across the globe, European States are barricading their borders as if they expected a foreign army to invade.
In most of continental Europe this means the Schengen agreement, which suspends monitoring of borders between participating countries but gives immigration authorities unprecedented powers of surveillance, search and detention everywhere in the territory, not just at frontiers and ports of entry. Britain, meanwhile, is playing its part with the 1999 asylum Act, quietly pushed through by the Labour government under cover of the ‘anti racist’ Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. (A Home Office Green Paper explicitly links the two initiatives.)
The term ‘asylum seeker’ suddenly replaced ‘refugee’ in media and parliamentary language around the time of last Tory immigration act, finally passed in 1996. Wheras ‘refugee’ implies an active attempt [Read more →]

Datacide conference review by history is made at night

November 22nd, 2008

Check out Neil’s review of the conference and party HERE

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