Daily Archives: June 12, 2012

Brian Holmes: Three Crises: 30s-70s-Today (Occupy Berlin/Autonomous University)

Autonomous University • Tue, 2012-06-12

The Autonomous University is hosting a one-week long seminar on the crises of capital and possible futures after it taught by Brian Holmes starting this Sunday at 6pm. Everyone is welcome! Ideally, though, participants are expected to attend seminars on a regular basis and be prepared to participate in group discussions based on Brian’s lectures and the suggested readings (see below).

Three Crises: 30s-70s-Today

A seminar with Occupy Berlin

The Autonomous University is an old dream that finds new expressions in every period of systemic change and political upheaval. This seminar  is part of a global constellation of parallel efforts to establish a new basis for militant research, educational experimentation and public political debate. At its heart are lectures and group discussions at the intimate scale of a self-organized classroom, relayed and augmented by the use of Internet resources. The sessions have been planned in collaboration with members of Occupy Berlin. Their aim is to produce useful knowledge about the historical roots and possible futures of the current political-economic crisis.

GOALS: The seminar seeks to develop a framework for understanding the present political-economic crisis and for acting within and beyond it. Historical study is integrated with activist experience and artistic expression. The seminar is part of the autonomous university program developed by Occupy Berlin. It includes Internet resources for sharing research notes and reference materials. All of this builds on a similar experiment at Mess Hall in Chicago (http://messhall.org), with inspiration from the Public School, the Edufactory network and other autonomous education initiatives.

FORMAT: An introduction, six core sessions and a conclusion, compressed into one intensive week (see calendar for dates/times). Readings can be done in advance or later, as desired by each person. The first hour of each session will be a lecture/slideshow by Brian Holmes, an autonomous researcher and cultural critic living in the US. The second hour is a group discussion, seeking to integrate the North American perspective with European historical experiences. The respondent for the first five sessions will be Armin Medosch, a Vienna and London-based researcher with whom the theoretical framework of the seminar was developed. Other respondents will be sought in the course of the event.

CONCEPT: The development of capitalism is marked, every thirty or forty years, by the eruption of extended economic crises that restructure the entire system in organizational, technological, financial and geopolitical terms, while affecting daily life and commonly held values and attitudes. In the course of these crises, conditions of exploitation and domination are challenged by grassroots and anti-systemic movements, with major opportunities for positive change. However, each historical crisis so far has also elicited an elite response, stabilizing the worldwide capitalist system on the basis of a new integration/repression of classes, interest groups, genders and minority populations (whose definition, composition and character also change with the times). In the United States, because of its leading position within twentieth-century capitalism, the domestic resolution of each of the previous two crises has helped to restructure not only national social relations, but also the international political-economic order. Nothing ensures that the same thing will happen again. By examining the crises of the 1930s and the 1970s along with the top-down responses and the resulting hegemonic compromises, we can try to cut through the inherited ideological confusion, gain insight into our own positions within contemporary neoliberal society, identify the elite projects on the horizon and begin to formulate our own possible agency during the continuing period of instability and chaos.

SESSIONS (suggested readings for the sessions can be downloaded here http://dl.dropbox.com/u/43467036/Readings_1-5.zip):

1. June 17th: Introduction: techno-political paradigms, crisis, and the formation of new hegemonies.

How to grasp the potential for systemic change that lies hidden in the turbulence of a major crisis? How to symbolize it and express it through intellectual and artistic means? The seminar begins with a theoretical concept of more-or-less coherent “long waves” of capitalist development, understood as techno-political paradigms. These waves are typically generated in specific geographical regions, but they extend their influence across the globe. For twenty- to thirty-year periods, technologies, organizational forms, social institutions and global economic and military agreements find a working fit that allows for growth and expansion, up to a limit-point where the paradigm begins to encounter conditions of stagnation and internal contradiction. In some cases, known as regulation crises, the resolution of the crisis stabilizes a social order corresponding to an entrenched productive system. In other cases, technological bifurcations and even shifts of global hegemony may occur. So far, the resolution of each major crisis has added another new technological-organizational-cultural layer to the previously existing ones. That’s what makes world society so damn complicated!

2. June 18th: Working-class movements and the socialist challenge during the Great Depression

This session begins with an analysis of the assembly-line mass production paradigm in the United States, then turns to economic and social conditions following the Crash of ‘29. We follow the interaction between labor movements and communist doctrines, while examining the major institutional innovations of the Roosevelt administration (and contrasting them to German history in the discussion). Can the 1930s be understood as a “regulation crisis” of Taylorist mass production? What are the forces that provoked the crisis? Who emerged as its major actors? Where were the initial solutions found? How did the New Deal become an idealized figure of class compromise for succeeding generations, far beyond the United States?

3. June 18th: The Council on Foreign Relations during WWII and Keynesian Fordism

Only after 1938 was the economic crisis resolved in the US, through the state orchestration of innovation and production effected by wartime institutions. Corporate leaders from the Council on Foreign Relations were directly inducted to the Roosevelt government and planned the postwar monetary and free-trade order later enshrined in the Bretton Woods treaties. What kinds of technological and organizational changes were brought by wartime planning? How was the intense labor militancy of the 1930s absorbed into the Cold War domestic balance? To what extent did an American hegemony shape the industrial boom in the Keynesian social democracies of Western Europe and Japan? How were the industrial welfare states supported and enabled by neo-colonial trade relations and resource extraction? Why do people continue to see postwar society as a positive norm?

4. June 20th: The ‘60s revolts, Third-World self-assertion, counter-revolution

The brief convergence of labor movements, student revolts and minority rights campaigns in 1968 was a global phenomenon, spurred on by Third World liberation and the war in Vietnam. This session begins with anti-systemic struggles and then zooms in on the SDS, Black Power and Feminist movements in the United States. Participants in the discussion will fill in the comparisons and contrasts with Germany and other countries. Did the US and Europe internalize global socioeconomic contradictions during this period? Which aspects of the political and cultural revolts posed real obstacles to the existing economic structure? Which ones later became raw materials for the formation of a new hegemonic compromise? What were the elite reactions to grassroots insurgencies?

5. June 20th: The Trilateral Commission and Neoliberal Informationalism

Wildcat strikes, welfare claims and high resource prices imposed by producer countries (notably OPEC) all contributed to the crisis of the 1970s. But there was more: the breakdown of Bretton Woods in 1971 and the conquest of relative autonomy by Western Europe and Japan, along with the Third World push for a New International Economic Order. The launch of the Trilateral Commission in 1973 was an elite response to the crisis, laying the basis for an expanded hegemony whose sovereign expression was the G7 group, founded in 1975. The coming of “postindustrial society” was announced by sociology, while innovations like the microprocessor went into mass production. Cooperation among trilateral elites was paralleled by financialization and the rise of computer networks. In the US, the Treasury-induced US recession of 1980-82, the hi-tech “Star Wars” military buildup and the emergence of a distinct, university-based innovation system became the linchpins of a new techno-political paradigm: Neoliberal Informationalism. We will consider the major features of the new paradigm and discuss the way it became hegemonic in the US, Western Europe and Japan.

6. June 22nd: 1989 and the roots of current crisis.

With the breakdown of the USSR in 1989, followed by the first Gulf War, the world-space was opened up for transformation by the Trilateral economic system, based on information processing and just-in-time production. The 1990s witnessed the largest capitalist expansion since the postwar boom. With the collapse of the USSR and the integration of the former Communist world, both the capitalist market and labor force were doubled in size. Transoceanic fiber-optic cables ringed the earth and production lines became regional and global, circumventing national labor regulations. After tracking the Trilateral expansion of Neoliberal Informationalism we’ll focus on the rise of the Gulf states and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), as well as the political challenges to the Washington Consensus that took form in the 1990s: the anti-globalization movement, Latin American Leftism, Salafi Jihad. Did these challenges signify the end of the Trilateral hegemony?

7. June 22nd: Financial crisis and elite attempts to stabilize Neoliberal Informationalism

Finally we examine the inherently volatile dynamics of the informational economy, culminating in the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the dot-com bust of 2000 and the credit crunch of 2008, followed by the ongoing fiscal crisis of the neoliberal state. Little has been done in the US to control financial capital, but across the Trilateral countries the debt crisis has massively punished the low-income sectors of society and eroded the status of the middle classes, with a major attack on the public university system and a move to cut all remaining welfare-state entitlements. Have we entered a regulation crisis of Neoliberal Informationalism? How have the EU and Japan responded? What paths have been taken by the Gulf states, Russia, Latin America and China? Are new alliances forming among international elites, outside the Trilateral arenas? What could make the grassroots resistance stronger?

8. June 23rd: Perspectives for egalitarian and ecological social change in the upcoming decade

In the absence of reform and redistribution, continued financial turmoil is certain, along with a decline of the Trilateral countries and a reorganization of the monetary-military order. Meanwhile, climate change is already upon us, advancing much faster than anticipated. We face a triple crisis, economic, geopolitical and ecological, with consequences that can’t be predicted on the basis of past experience. What are the central contradictions that will mark the upcoming years? Which institutions and social bargains have already come under severe stress? In what ways will the ecological crisis begin to produce political responses? How will class struggles within the US and Europe interact with the cross-border and worldwide struggles heralded by the Arab Spring? Can grassroots movements seize the chances of the crisis? On what basis could new anti-systemic movements be forged?

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Release Mahmoud Sarsak from Prison!

theredcard.org

Release Mahmoud Sarsak from Prison

Show Racism the Red Card joins the voices calling for his release

Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, is a Palestinian national team player. He has been imprisoned by the Israeli government for three years without any trial. In desparation, and to protest against his condition and lack of civil liberties, Sarsak is on a hunger strike. The 25-year old footballer has not eaten for 85 days and has lost approximately thirty kilos in weight. According to human rights organisation Addameer the situation of Mahmoud is critical.

On 22 July 2009 Sarsak – who lives in Rafah in the Gaza Strip – was arrested at a checkpoint when he was on his way to the West Bank for a match with his national team. He was interrogated for thirty days and then imprisoned without any trial or a precise legal charge. Family and friends are not allowed to visit him. They do not know why he is being detained for already nearly three years – no charge, no trial.

According to the Israeli government he is an illegal combatant and therefore they can imprison him indefinitely. Israeli jails house around 4,000 Palestinian political prisoners, more than 300 of them “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial. Sarsak, and all victims of abuse by the Israeli state, need our support.

Watch a video interview with Mahmoud’s family

This urgent campaign to release Mahmoud Sarsak is being supported by:

Eric Cantona
Noam Chomsky, Professor MIT, USA
John Dugard, Former Special Rapporteur of UN on Palestine, South Africa
FIFPro
Trevor Griffiths, Writer, UK
Paul Laverty, Screenwriter, UK
Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK
Miriam Margolyes OBE, Actor, UK
John Pilger, Journalist, author, film maker, Australia
Show Racism the Red Card
Ahdaf Soueif, Writer, UK

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Notes from Blockupy Frankfurt

edu-factory.org
Notes from Blockupy Frankfurt
Monday, June 11, 2012

by SANDRO MEZZADRA
May 22, 2012

1. This is what democracy looks like

The meeting, on Thursday May 17, is in Paulsplatz, a place full of significance in German political history. Here (in the Paulskirche) people met after the March revolution of the 1848 constituent assembly that proposed the first German constitution before being overwhelmed by the reaction. Many of the protestors that approach the plaza in small groups have another Constitution in mind, that of 1949 federal Germany, and they carry signs recalling the articles about fundamental rights. For two days, Frankfurt lives a grotesque state of exception, with the consequent suspension of fundamental rights, principally the rights to demonstrate and freely express dissent, in theory (and for obvious reasons) strongly protected in Germany.

The concentration in Paulsplatz has also been prohibited, called for by a coalition of associations in defense of basic rights. When we meet in the streets in groups of a few hundred, the police shut down all access. Every time that someone speaks through a megaphone, the police loudspeakers repeat that the rally is prohibited, the power of decibels choking the voice of protest.

A few hours later, while groups of protesters are surrounded by police in other parts of the city, many of them detained and driven away from Frankfurt, in the city’s central square (the Römer) three hundred people manage to come together. A tent is erected and suddenly it is made clear that the police won’t tolerate such a thing. Thousands of agents immediately surround the plaza, they intervene forcefully, picking each protester off the ground, carrying them out of the plaza. Many of us continue showing the police the Constitution, the adrenaline of the men and women in uniform, children and old people being dragged out, someone ends up hurt. All of this to dissolve a peaceful sit-in.

These scenes are repeated on Friday but this time the police can’t stop a group of protesters from occupying a small space in front of the fences erected to protect the headquarters of the European Central Bank. The police pressure continues to be suffocating but anyone who has managed to make it here can console themselves with the view of Frankfurt’s financial district apparently paralyzed. A first account begins to circulate that will be used by the historic liberal newspaper “Frankfurter Rundschau,” after Saturday’s protest: the bankers have shut the banks, the police have blocked the city…

Mixed feelings after the first two days in Frankfurt: the press’s reaction is decidedly positive, more than a few will write in the main newspapers that Blockupy Frankfurt has won. Apocalyptic scenes constructed by the police to justify the massive security measures (five million euros, a considerable amount, even in Germany) are superposed with images of old women being grabbed by agents dressed as Robocops. Someone joked about Merkel’s indignation over human rights violations in Ukraine. On the other hand, the sensation is of having participated in a staged event, and, at the same time, in an experiment. There couldn’t be a more effective representation, in the heart of Europe’s financial district, of the gulf between capitalism and democracy, which is one of the themes that underlines the crisis in this part of the world. The crisis of capitalism’s legitimacy in the economic crisis has been made clear in Frankfurt in all of its potential violence, with a kind of experimental anticipation of what could happen if the celebrated “German model” begins to fall apart.

“This is their democracy,” chanted the protesters on the streets of Frankfurt. A slogan with a double meaning: “their” democracy is the police’s state of siege, “our” democracy is the real one, that of the encampments and the Occupy movement, and it is what feeds resistance and struggle in and against the crisis. There weren’t many of us in Frankfurt on Thursday and Friday: many buses were stopped at the city’s entrance and sent back, the climate of fear created in the previous weeks has certainly had its “effectiveness,” and every time you moved you physically felt the limit imposed by the police presence. But the determination and even the joy of those that were there was a great expression of their consciousness of being part of a much larger movement, materially building a horizon of a radical alternative to the crisis.

2. A-anti-anticapitalista

The day started early on Saturday, with meetings and preparation for the demonstration, the only authorized demonstration among all the initiatives planned by the Blockupy Frankfurt coalition. Once we arrived to the concentration, it was clear it would be a large protest. Buses and trains arrived from the Frankfurt region, from all of Germany, from across Europe. There are the banners of Attac and Linke, some trade unions (especially of services, verd.di), anti-nuclear ecologists, but above all young people. The atmosphere is serene, joyful, but there is also much concern: they are saying that the police will do anything to provoke, to obtain “images” that justify the state of emergency, that would somehow erase the images from Thursday in Römer….

That’s what is repeated during the demonstration. When the “anti-capitalist bloc” joins, the police surround it, attempting to break the protest in two. But this time they can’t: Attac and Linke, who find themselves in the back and at the head of the “anti-capitalist bloc,” reject every attempt by the police to separate the “peaceful” protesters from the “violent” ones. For hours the demonstration travels the streets of Frankfurt and arrives intact to the square where it’s scheduled to end. More than 25,000 protesters (German, therefore accurate, numbers) give a different meaning to the actions of the previous days, and above all, represent an optimal base for a political gamble over the future of the Blockupy movement in Germany.

“A-anti-anticapitalista” is the chant that’s repeated throughout the demonstration, first from the anti-capitalist bloc (the most numerous) and then by everyone. A slogan that’s maybe too “basic” but acquires a precise meaning in light of what’s happened in Frankfurt during the previous weeks and in general during the European crisis: the “real democracy” of the encampments and the Occupy movement can only qualify itself inside the anti-capitalist struggle. Today if we are witnessing a tendency toward a divergence between capitalism and democracy, the reinvention of democracy – far from being located in the sphere of “pure politics” – has to pass through a radical critique of capitalism.

3. Solidarität

As soon as the Blockupy Frankfurt proposal began to circulate, I began thinking about what was important in that proposal: the reason that it would be worthwhile to go, was precisely because the mobilization was in Frankfurt. The reopening of the initiative of the movement in Germany seemed to me essential from the point of view of struggles in Europe. The rupture of the consensus that the “German model” enjoyed, the development of conflicts and political initiatives around the cracks, like the “reform” of the welfare state put in march by the red-green government (the so-called Hartz IV), the politicization of the precarity that is so widespread today, above all for the youth… all of these are essential steps for the construction and consolidation of a European space of struggles. Obviously, this is not to deny that the impact of the crisis in Germany is different from in the rest of Europe. On the contrary, I think that one of the most urgent tasks is to reconstruct the crisis’s geography, the heterogeneity of its modes of manifestation and its different effects in different contexts (in Europe and at the global level). But this “cartography of heterogeneity” of the crisis’s effects has to be combined with an understanding of its systemic dynamics, of the interdependence based on which it unfolds. Above all in Europe.

From this point of view, the events of Frankfurt represent, without a doubt, as the comrades from Interventionistische Linke (http://www.dazwischengehen.org/) write, “a beginning.” There was important European participation, despite the emergency situation in which we had to move, and there were important moments of discussion between activists from different countries. However, we cannot deny that in the weeks prior to the days of action, communication was difficult; there were continuous problems of “translation,” in the literal sense (banally, the majority of the documents that circulated before and during the days of Blockupy Frankfurt were only in German) but also in the broader sense, in the difficulty to translate not only different languages, struggles, cultures and practices but also profoundly heterogeneous experiences of the crisis. In a way, we can say that in respect to the most recent cycle of struggle of of the global movement of the beginning of the century (being more “rooted” in specific situations), there has been a recession in Frankfurt in terms of working in network and of activism at a “transnational” level. This seems to me where we need to begin to work immediately, as much in the practical construction of transnational encounters for discussion and organization as in the more general problem of a “space” for political action.

From this point of view, the rhetoric of “solidarity” (with the Greek people, the Spanish people, the Italians…), dominant in both the planning and during the days of action in Frankfurt, is decidedly problematic. On the one hand, it proposes a language (that of proletarian internationalism) today that – far from being able to be reactivated in its classical terms – indicates the terrain where it is necessary to put to work the movements’ power of invention and theoretical production and, on the other hand, it suffers, limiting itself to a mechanical reversal in terms of “solidarity,” the representation of power relations within the European Union. The idea of the dislocation that is needed today, the invention of a new common area of struggles and movements, ends up being overshadowed.

4. Blockupy Europe

The days in Frankfurt highlight the problem of Europe, of a new European dimension of the movements’ struggles and actions. Within this dimension, as we have said many times before, we can (and we should) experiment with a combination of rooting the struggles in specific metropolitan areas and the construction of a space in which these same struggles can multiply their force and begin to construct an alternative political program. I’m well aware that this is only stating the terms of the problem, not a solution. But it’s a statement that should first assert its political realism: it’s only through the struggles’ capacity for dislocation within a European dimension that we can oppose the growth of the old and new right-wings in their attempts to “occupy” the spaces and rhetoric of national sovereignty; it is only within the European dimension that we can aim to build a new favorable relation of force with financial capital. In Frankfurt, also from this point of view, we have participated in a new “beginning,” we have seen the potential and difficulties. Already in the coming weeks, before falling to the times of crisis around the Greek question, we will not lack opportunities to test ourselves.

Originally in Italian: http://uninomade.org/note-da-blockupy-francoforte/

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Everything Falls Apart (Sydney)

Artspace, Sydney

june12_artspace_imf.jpg
Tony Garifalakis, “Anti Christs” (detail), 2012.
C-type print. Courtesy of the artist.

Everything Falls Apart
Part I: 
27 June–5 August 2012
Opening: Wednesday, 27 June, 6pm

Part II: 
10 August–16 September 2012
Opening: Thursday, 9 August, 6pm

Artspace, Sydney
43–51 Cowper Wharf Road
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Sydney, Australia
Hours: Office 10–6pm, Mon–Fri
Gallery 11–5pm, Tues–Sun

T +61 2 9356 0555
artspace@artspace.org.au
www.artspace.org.au

Part I: Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck in collaboration with Media Farzin, Jem Cohen, Phil Collins, Sarah Goffman, and Sarah Morris
Part II: Vernon Ah Kee, Zanny Begg & Oliver Ressler, Jem Cohen, Tony Garifalakis, and Merata Mita
Curators:
Mark Feary and Blair French

Everything Falls Apart brings together several significant works by international and Australian artists presented over two exhibitions. Overall, the project focuses on works examining the collapse of ideological and political systems—actual, imagined, desired—be this via specific events or through broader consideration of the dissolution of or confrontation with capitalist, colonial, or totalitarian regimes. The works often draw on existing footage, personal recollection, and reconstitution. They form around relationships between the individual and the mass, felt or articulated through interwoven conversation, testimony, and narrative.

Part I clusters works that act as reflective analysis in and of the aftermath of system disintegration, including ecological and cultural belief systems. Part II homes in on the moments and territories of conflict—the abrasive meeting of institutionalised power and its counter-energies and structures. With an emphasis upon video work, woven together by new installation interventions, common threads connecting these distinct works become apparent: failings of the state, crumbling ideologies, dissolving authoritative measures of control, the generative energies and collective impulses of anti-institutional collective cultural and social identity, the failings of history as both efficacious event narrative and discursive form, the individual as both the subject of and counterforce to the dominance of the mass.

Everything Falls Apart will be presented at Artspace in the organisation’s twentieth year in the Gunnery building fronting Sydney Harbour in Wolloomooloo. The exhibition series forges connections between the work of major international artists such as Phil Collins, Sarah Morris, and Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck (in collaboration with Media Farzin) and projects by Australia-based Vernon Ah Kee, Zanny Begg, Tony Garifalakis, and Sarah Goffman. The two parts of the project are linked by a number of film works by American filmmaker Jem Cohen, with Part I of Everything Falls Apart featuring Cohen’s Gravity Hill Newsreel series, and Part II presenting the film Little Flags (1991–2000). Everything Falls Apart will also feature three screenings of late New Zealand filmmaker Merata Mita’s Patu! (1983).

Symposium
In association with the exhibition, Artspace and the National Institute for Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales will present a one-day symposium, Another World, on 17 August 2012. Another World will ask how twenty-first-century global crises—whether financial, environmental, social, or political—have transformed the context of art practice and analysis. In the face of the Occupy movements, the Arab Spring, climate change, and environmental disaster, what new aesthetic tactics and strategies are emerging? How do new ways of operating challenge existing modes of representation, exhibition-making, and theoretical analysis? Do we need to rethink our disciplinary practices in response to the demands of the momentous events that shape contemporaneity or the new everyday? Participants will include Jill Bennett (National Institute for Experimental Art, UNSW), Blair French (Artspace), Nicholas Mirzoeff (New York University), Kim Simon (Gallery TPW, Toronto), and Terry Smith (University of Pittsburgh).

Artspace is supported by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State, and Territory Governments. Artspace is assisted by the New South Wales Government through Arts NSW and by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its principal arts funding body. Artspace is a member of CAOs (Contemporary Art Organisations Australia) and Res Artis (International Association of Residential Art Centres).

june12_artspace_logo.jpg

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