Datacide 15

Towards a New African Fascism – Kagame’s Rwanda in the 21st Century

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“If you go back to the birth of nations, if you come down to our own day, if you examine peoples in all possible conditions from the state of barbarism to the most advanced civilisation, you always find war. From this primary cause … the effusion of blood has never ceased in this world.”
Joseph de Maistre (1797)

—-

Civilisation is measured by its roads; uneven development is revealed by its potholes. The Romans ruled the extent of their imperium along their via; the Victorians penetrated with protractors and railroads; lately, the BBC has devoted an entire chauvinistic TV series (‘Top Gear’) to ridiculing the absence of ‘proper’ roads outside the Western comfort zone.

Rwanda’s roads could never be straight, for every inch of this African emerald is set across a vertiginous mountain range. But its winding roads are perfect. Too perfect. They are fastidiously-tarmacked, governed, regulated spaces with delineated sidewalks, freshly-painted lines, rationalised roundabouts, 12-hour street lighting, advance-warning filter systems, traffic lights which work – and which are obeyed. This is not only in the capital, Kigali: all the way south in the border town of Gisenyi, one can gaze smugly from its smooth Paradise into the shambolic warzone of eastern Congo; at the other end of the country, a European visitor to the northern town of Nyagatare could be forgiven for thinking they were in Liechtenstein.

To make matters even more disconcertingly ‘un-African’, Rwandan drivers always follow traffic regulations, even when no-one is looking.

—-

My first visit to Rwanda is in 2008. It’s only 10pm and Kigali is already dead. I’m with Karlsson, a foul-mouthed Swedish academic, and we are looking for somewhere to have another beer. He’s researching the controversial topic of media freedom and I am keen to hear of his findings. We’ve had the uneasy feeling all day that people have been eavesdropping on us. To anyone listening in, our conversation must sound bizarre. You cannot meaningfully discuss Rwandan politics without mentioning their ethnic factions, the Hutu and the Tutsi, yet the regime has literally outlawed the use of the terms ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’, unless you use them in a close approximation of the following phrase: “… the Hutu genocide against the Tutsi.” So in the spirit of naughty schoolboys we spend the whole day talking politics by substituting the ethnicities with the terms ‘Hookers’ and ‘Trannies’ (as in transvestites). “Some claim there were actually more Hookers killed by the Trannies in reprisals…” or “the Trannies are simply burying the issue and the Hookers are going to boil over one day soon, you’ll see…” 1

In this prematurely deceased night we sit down and relax in the absence of flitting eyes. We are probably being paranoid to think we were shadowed the whole day, but we’d be well-advised in that attitude. Karlsson would simply be the latest foreign researcher or journalist to have his visa revoked. The Rwandan authorities are justified in their vigilance. Only 5 years earlier Rwanda had been one of the most feared protagonists in the Second Congo War (9 combatant nations and nearly 6 million deaths) and only 14 years earlier Hutu Power had conducted a genocide in Rwanda itself (800,000 deaths).

Karlsson staggers off in search of a demarcated urination spot and I enter a kiosk bar, the only place open as far as the eye can see. There is a middle-aged man drinking at the counter. He stares fixedly at me as I try and order beer and cigarettes. The kiosk is brightly-lit by ghastly neon. High up on the wall is the ubiquitous framed image of President Paul Kagame, sitting up straight, his narrow neck-tied frame topped by bespectacled, beady eyes. “Hey you! Do you know who that man is?” the sodden customer addresses me breezily. “Yes”, I smirk, attempting some levity, “he’s the main man, the numero uno – the big cheese!” There is a brief silence as the drinker contemplates me; his lips are now snarled with contempt. “This man” he hisses, grabbing my sleeve and jabbing his finger towards the icon, “is our saviour. He is a God to us.” The barman abruptly finishes the transaction and President Kagame watches from the wall as I leave his kiosk. [Read more →]

Sincere Genesis – On Félix Guattari & Groups

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“Sooner or later the Situationist International must
define itself as a therapy: we are ready to defend the
poetry made by all against the false poetry
rigged up by power”
– Raoul Vaneigem

As a psychoanalyst and militant, Félix Guattari seems to have engaged with the problem of groups for all his life. Across his writing we see him putting forth, as part of a collaborative process, various conceptualisations of group life which are to a larger or lesser degree operational concepts which he had experienced and worked with. These are: institutional analysis, the subject and subjugated group and the collective assemblage of enunciation. Several themes, gathering points for his later more pronounced interest in the production of subjectivity, appear to flow through all of these concepts: transversalism, a mixed semiotic and the subject as ‘supra-personal’. [Read more →]

Obekna

Scenario by Olivier Noel, Drawings by Simon Lejeune.

Click (twice) on the images to enlarge. See below for more details.

obekna-page-1-eng-low [Read more →]

Fluxus and DIY Concerts

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Many different art movements of the twentieth century have influenced experimental music. This essay will focus mostly on the effect the Fluxus movement has had on music. Fluxus was particularly important to the development of an understanding that music does not necessarily have to be harmonic, and most importantly, that anyone can create music by organizing everyday sounds. This essay will discuss the following issues: how Fluxus artists challenged experimental/noise music; how audience becomes part of the performance instead of simply observing; and how noise music (as well as the Fluxus movement in general) was a protest against serious traditional culture.

Fluxus was not the first art movement that started the development of noise aesthetics. The proposal that artists should use everyday sounds in their compositions first appeared in the Italian Futurist painter and composer Luigi Russolo’s manifesto “The Art of Noises”. In his text the author criticized the old fashioned tools for sound production, and as an alternative he proposed making new musical instruments and using a multitude of machines. According to Russolo, perfectly harmonious music had reached a point where it no longer had the power to excite or inspire. Consequently, artists of the Dada movement extended experimental music ideas. A prime example was the Anti-Symphony concert performed in Berlin on April 30, 1919. Later, the Surrealist and Fluxus art movements brought in new, fresh ideas to noise/experimental music. The biggest influences were the Fluxus artists Robert Watts, Wolf Vostell, Nam June Paik, George Maciunas, Philip Corner, Benjamin Patterson, LaMonte Young, and Takehisa Kosugi. Fluxus performances grew out of the principle of concrete (ready-made) sound, and the Experimental Composition classes by John Cage ran between 1957 and 1959 at the New School of Social Research in New York. According to Cage, artists should use actions, concrete sounds, and random things, rather than being represented in an illusionist/harmonic manner. There were two different types of Fluxus performances. The early one was the “Events/Neo-haiku Theater”, which was followed by the “Happenings/Neo-Baroque Theater”. Happenings, environments, and Fluxus made the artist aware of sounds’ potentiality in creating work that retained a sense of immediacy, corporeality, and curiosity. [Read more →]

Marcel Bois: Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin – Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung (Book Review)

Marcel Bois
Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin
Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung
Klartext Verlag, Essen 2014
ISBN 978-3-8375-1282-3

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With this 600 page strong book Marcel Bois offers the first comprehensive overall presentation of the history and sociology of the left opposition of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the 1920s and early 1930s. The emphasis is on a very detailed and scientifically documented depiction of those groups who left the KPD from the mid-20s onwards in the course of its Stalinisation. These were on the one hand the groups around the former leaders of the party such as Ruth Fischer, Arkadij Maslow and Werner Scholem, who with Hugo Urbahns and others, founded the Leninbund (Lenin-League). On the other hand there were the Entschiedene Linke (Decisive Left) and the Gruppe Kommunistische Politik around Ernst Schwarz and Karl Korsch respectively, as well as The Wedding Opposition and smaller groups like Bolschewistische Einheit (Bolshevik Unity). A bit later, the organisational roots of Trotskyism in Germany also emerged. The Spartakusbund linkskommunistischer Organisationen around Franz Pfemfert had a special position in the milieu of the left oppposition.

The founding conference of the KPD took place at the turn of the year 1918/1919 within two months of the end of World War I. Less than two weeks later, two of its most important leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered. There were several attempts from this time through 1923 to make the revolution in Germany happen, which all failed. Already in 1919 a back-and-forth started between more ‘left’ or ‘right’ leaning leaderships, and as early as October 1919 a large section of the party’s left were expelled. The issues at stake were the rejection of elections to parliament and the Leninist party concept by the left. In April 1920 this left constituted the Communist Workers Party (Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, KAPD), and took with them a large part of the membership of the KPD. This marked a decisive historical break in the international communist movement that was echoed in similar processes of regroupment in other countries. Lenin famously targeted the left with his nasty pamphlet “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, denouncing its ‘opinion, declamations and angry ejaculations’ as ‘childish’, ‘particularly stupid’, ‘fundamentally wrong’ and amounting ‘to no more than empty phrase-mongering’. In the process he defended participation in parliamentary elections and reactionary unions, and effectively the dictatorship of the party over the dictatorship of the proletariat. The KPD in the meantime ditched the ‘right’ leadership under Paul Levi, who was appalled by the fact that the party had been dragged into the ‘putschist’ adventure of the ‘March Action’ in 1921. Levi then printed the previously unavailable – now famous – text by Rosa Luxemburg in which she severely criticised the Bolsheviks. [Read more →]

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