Anj -- Spivak -- They the people Problems of alter-globalization
Radical Philosophy 157 (September/October 2009)
They the people
Problems of alter-globalization
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
You have asked for current thinking about different concepts and forms of political collectivity.* If I were speaking as an academic, I would, I suppose, look once again at the implications of `multitudes', as conceived by our colleagues and allies Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. Speaking as an activist, however, I am obliged to say that the bold and indeed brave and intriguing notion of the multitude does not quite match up yet to the practical fact of the transformation of Antonio Gramsci's Modern Prince into what is too easily called international civil society. I will speak about the world's `people' as constructed by this haphazardly put together episteme, `international' by default.
The developmental logic of the expression `international
civil society' might be taken to run as follows: first step, `social' as opposed to `political' – in other words, movement as opposed to party; second step, non-governmental, effective social engagement as opposed to party politics; third step, a management-style decision
not to use the negative (`non'-governmental), but to invent a positive, not-state-therefore-civil-society. The crucial political-theoretical fact that the emergence of `civil society' presupposed a certain type of social contract, which linked it to the production of an urbanity in a controlling relationship with a specific state, is completely ignored here. The importance of the buÌˆrgerliche Gesellschaft to the bourgeois state is therefore precisely forgotten, as the possibility of the welfare state as accountable is closed off more and more in the interest of a globalization that alter-globalization must accept in order to come into existence.
This potted possible history is always in my mind as I use the expression `international civil society'.1
It is well known that Gramsci thought of the Party as the Modern Prince.2 As Laclau and Mouffe, and before them Christine Buci-Glucksmann, have pointed out, the ideas in Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, which he circled around in many different ways, are most often what Derrida has called pharmakon.3 Ideas like hegemony, the Party and indeed the state have the ambivalence
of something that can be both poison and medicine. Gramsci's work is a blueprint for practical and epistemological
activism. Parties still have a degree of archaic importance in local and national politics, with their local and national traditions, spiced by human intrigue. After the failure of state and revolution, in this era of world governance, the importance that Gramsci perceived
in the intellectual formation called the Party, belonging to a democratic international socialism, has displaced itself. The mood of the Left is altogether in favour of what, twenty years ago, Immanuel Wallerstein, Giovanni Arrighi and Terence Hopkins called `anti-systemic
movements' – the then newish social movements – extra-state collective action to attend to problems neglected by state and party alike.4 Wallerstein's fear then was that they would seek state power. Now, these movements have gained so much strength that they bypass the state almost completely and provoke us into asking if they should take the helm of world governance.
My title today is directed to their clientele.
What is called terrorism can also be defined as extra-state collective action. George W. Bush attempted to take up arms against this from the point of view of the state. I will not here be able to consider how the `war on terror' haphazardly took the shape of international governance, in spite of the petulant and self-centralizing role of the USA. I would, however, like to draw a parallel between the war on terror and the control of migration. For just as the violent management of international extra-state violence was undertaken nationally by the United States of America and became internationalized, so migration is provoked
* This is the text of a talk to the Radical Philosophy conference, Power to the People?, London, 9 May 2009. I should like to dedicate these few words to Professor Nanjundaswamy, valiant fighter against Cargill and Monsanto, who died in 2004, and who was imprisoned for destroying a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Bangalore, India in 1997. It was my great good fortune to spend some time with him that year. I could not join forces with him because, although we ourselves could converse in English, his field of operation was in the idiom of Kannada,
the language of his native state, mine in Bengali. However, as I will argue here, linguistic diversity is not an obstacle to an effectively international socialism, but rather its constitutive double bind.
by globalization in a heterogeneous way, as can be seen in Amit Bhaduri's critical focus on what the Right calls `the managerial state', brought into being by the pressures of globalization.5 We live in an uneven world, determined by global and state-based imperatives, with geopolitical difference determined by history and geography, not yet inhabited by a multitude. Into this world steps the international civil society, `we the saviours', with its clientele of `they, the people', and a jubilant cry: `Another world is possible.'
After Bernard Cassen's 2003 interview in New Left Review,6 we all know that the ATTAC (Association
pour la Taxation des Transactions pour l'Aide de Citoyens) – the French organization at the helm of alter-globalization or the international integration of globalization – spawned the World Social Forum. But it is also possible to say that the World Social Forum is a necessary outcome of that slow failure of state and revolution, by internal and external forces, which is one of the major narratives of the past century. This décalage, between the efficient and the necessary cause of the World Social Forum, has created a radical philosophy
that can allow for only a sentimental version of auto-critique, if at all; far indeed from the systemic goals of Marxism. The difference between `Another Europe is Possible' and `Another World is Possible' is a crucial part of this.
The South and the North
It was between the inception of the social movements in the 1980s and the founding of the ATTAC in 1998 that the slow appropriation of these movements by the forces of international capital and the recognition of so-called international civil society by our imperfect but venerable organization of world governance (I refer, of course, to the United Nations) took place, in 1994: the opening of the NGO forum at the International
Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. It is significant that the theme of the ICPD dealt with reproductive heteronormativity in the context of `development', which was blatantly an alibi for transnational capitalism, then even without any serious commitment to the figure of `sustainability', hovering over the nakedness of its double bind. Never had the real difference between North and South come clearer, and also, of course, the usefulness of acknowledging
gender in this re-coding of `the people'.7 This is a supremely important point. None of the words in the subtitle of this conference – the people, proletariat, workers, masses, nations, communities, multitudes, commons – pays the slightest attention to gendering. But capitalism, as it freed labour, also produced what we recognize as feminism in the enlightened European eighteenth century. At last, in Cairo, the two came together as that crucial connection between town and state, included within Marx's own narrative, loosened.
This is something that requires an Eighteenth Brumaire type of analysis of its own.
I travelled with UBINIG that year, a Bangladeshi non-governmental organization that was not registered as an NGO, precisely because of the narrative I have laid out in the international context, and also because in the context of the poorer nation-states, the connections
between the managerial state and the NGOs were in fact strong. In other words, UBINIG wanted to retain an older sense of `we the people', recoding ideological feudality in the tradition of a Rosa Luxemburg
or a W.E.B. Du Bois theorizing the general strike, where the agent is the `worker'; not in terms of a strike, which would relate to the Gramscian concept of the Modern Prince, but as slowly creating another world – not as decreed by the whirlwind activism of the World Social Forum.
We were working against pharmaceutical dumping on women's bodies; our sense of reproductive rights was against enforced sterilization. We could only be perceived as `consensus breakers' against the overwhelming
Northern perception that the right to a legal abortion – which we strictly supported, of course – was the only right that could be mentioned in the draft resolution. As a member of the Asian Women's Human Rights Council, I wrote an open letter that year to Gro Harlem Brundtland, then chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development. I cite it here to give you a sense of what it is to think from the perspective of Bangladesh, to create a simulacrum of membership in a `we', rather than a distant obligation
to a `they'. I am not Bangladeshi, I am Indian. The perspective is here a linguistic link that pre-dates artificial frontiers. The national language of India is not my mother tongue, but the national language of Bangladesh is. In order to come close to achieving a simulacrum of idiomatic continuity with oppressed groups so that the activism in a social movement can represent them as portrait – `we' – as well as proxy – for `us' – activists have to learn to inhabit the `lingual memory' of the oppressed. (The idea that the `oppressed themselves' agitate in the social movements is questionable.) Since the question of representation in the social movements is not subject to the abstract structures of state-run democratic procedure (for better or for worse), this is particularly important in this sphere and gives the lie to universalism in a practical way. Unless universalism is mediated by linguistic
Anj -- India - Maoism and Shades of Grey
Even amongst the informed and querulous segments ( those who are so
unsure about what to do with Maoist militancy and are concerned about
the impact on democratic mass movements), there is limited awareness of
the massive development work done by them--through mass
organizations--because in the final analysis everyone is swept away by
the mainstream media's continuous portrayal of them as violent
militarists who swoop down from jungles and disappear into jungles after
massive ambushes etc.. The steady work done by them in mobile education,
health clinics, irrigation, culture work and parallel structures that
have benefitted tribals --is not on the minds today. Maoists are simply
enforcing the Directive Principles of the Indian constitution, which no
one has done for 62 years. Not the government, not any other mass
organization. Stuff like boiling water, enforcing minimum wages, digging
irrigation canals, ensuring the end of continuous mistreatment of women
by landlord culture is stopped and getting better price for agricultural
produce. Everyone is caught up in discussing Kishenji, phone calls,
faxes, deadlines etc....and the rogue manipulations of the teflon Indian
home minister and former Enron lawyer PCChidambaram. Please take time
out to listen to this 29 minute broadcast from New York FRSN.
Petition - Freedom for six political prisoners in Serbia
Petition - Freedom for six political prisoners in Serbia
His Excellency Boris Tadić,
President of the Republic of Serbia
Madame Slavica Đukić Dejanović,
Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia
Premier Mirko Cvetković,
Premier of the Government of the Republic of Serbia
His Excellency Ambassador Vincent Degert,
Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia
His Excellency Ambassador Constantin Yerocostopoulos,
Special Representative of the General Secretary of the Council of Europe
to the Republic of Serbia
FREEDOM FOR SIX POLITICAL PRISONERS IN SERBIA!
In bringing this matter to your kind attention, we petition for dismissal of the indictment against Sanja Dojkić (19), Tadej Kurepa (24), Nikola Mitrović (29), Ivan Savić (25), Ratibor Trivunac (28) and Ivan Vulović (24) and/or for their release.
These six young civil activists and union members from Belgrade have been in custody since September, 2009 under the charge of committing ‘an act of international terrorism’ for which, under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia, a prison term of between three and fifteen years is foreseen. The trial will commence on 17th February 2010.
On 3rd and 4th September, 2009 police in Belgrade arrested six citizens suspected of having thrown two Molotov cocktails at the building of the Greek Embassy in Belgrade on 25th August, 2009, which caused minor material damage to a window frame and part of a window pane of the Embassy. The persons in question are young civil activists and union members: Sanja Dojkić (19), Tadej Kurepa (24), Nikola Mitrović (29), Ivan Savić (25), Ratibor Trivunac (28) and Ivan Vulović (24).
Responsibility for this act was taken by the Crni Ilija [Black Ilija] group, unknown to the public until then, with the explanation that they had wanted thereby to direct attention to the case of the Greek activist Theodoris Iliopoulos, who was on a hunger strike in prison at that time.
Although they were arrested under the suspicion of ‘causing general jeopardy’, the act for which the arrested persons were suspected was pre-qualified into ‘an act of international terrorism’, by which throwing two beer bottles filled with petrol was equalised with an act that the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia classifies alongside genocide, crimes against Humanity, war crimes against civil populations, organising and inciting the execution of genocide and war crimes, and aggressive war.
It was ruled that the suspects be kept in custody for a month, which was then extended twice so that now (at the end of January) they have been incarcerated for almost five months.
At the beginning of November, 2009 the final indictment was entered against the defendants, and that for an act of international terrorism, for which, according to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia, a prison term of between three and fifteen years is foreseen.
At the end of January, 2010 it was announced that the trial would begin at the High Court in Belgrade on 17th February 2010.
Rene -- Squatting the Crisis
Squatting the Crisis
Lina Dokuzović / Eduard Freudmann
On the current protests in education and perspectives on radical change
“We won’t pay for your crisis!” has echoed throughout universities worldwide. The significance of this is that the statement’s momentum has not only spread throughout educational institutions, but has also been present in other areas of society, bringing attention to the general failure of neoliberal capitalism and its appropriation of all spheres of life.
What has been defined as the “crisis in education,” which should be remedied through a wave of reforms, has been dealt with in terms of economic crisis-based measures, with measures for increasing profit. A homogenization in the way of a reform wave has taken place through the Bologna Process for establishing the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Through this regulated norm of educational standards of comparability, EUrope aims to enter and be at the forefront of the growing competitive knowledge economy and of research-based profit, through the parallel establishment of the European Research Area (ERA). The systematic removal of democratic structures in universities in Austria has been taking place with the implementation of the Bologna Process. Democratically elected bodies have been degraded to a kind of staff committee, while the dean’s office has been upgraded to a CEO-like singular leading body, which is checked and balanced by a university-external supervisory board, the so-called University Board.
Universities are not only increasingly being run like corporations, but a smooth transition to what much of Anglo-American or international private schools have been subjected to is taking place. They are being run BY corporations. An example of corporate shareholder interest can be seen in the international media corporation, Bertelsmann, having recently sold their shares in Sony, stating they would begin investing into education instead, since it is becoming more profitable than the music industry. Through the reform processes, an education economy with knowledge as a tradable commodity has been created. The result has not only been that education is considered profitable, but that education itself can be measured and sold. This correlates to the principles of the all-embodying privatization and commodification within neoliberal capitalism. In Australia, for example, one of EUrope’s major competitors in the international education market, education services ranked as the third largest export industry, behind coal and iron ore, according to 2006–07 figures.
The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna is squatted!
Following the dissatisfaction resulting from a lengthy process of attempts to democratically negotiate the future of the institution, a public meeting was called by the Academy’s students and staff in front of its main building on October 20th, 2009. A statement was read out, which called for the reinstatement of the democratic structures that had been systematically removed in the course of establishing a system of increased competitiveness and commodification of the institution and everything within its walls. A list of precisely articulated demands was then read out to the dean. He was called on to fulfill his duty and represent the position of the institution rather than taking a gamble in his own professional and profitable interests, in the negotiation of the Budgetary Agreement with the Ministry of Science and Research, on the following day. A proclamation of solidarity was then expressed with all the protestors against educational reform around the world, which then included: Bangladesh, Brazil, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea and the USA. Subsequently, the approximately 250 individuals entered the building and occupied the assembly hall, the most representative space in the institution. The squatters installed a plenum in a grassroots democratic structure, whereupon it was decided that the space would remain occupied until the demands were met.
Two days later, a group of Academy staff and students protested in front of the Ministry of Science and Research, expressing their dissatisfaction and rejection of the Budgetary Agreement, a legally-binding contract that defines the performance of the former in relation to the amount of financing by the latter, which was being negotiated in an entirely non-transparent and non-democratic fashion at that very moment. The demonstrating group continued to several other university auditoria and major spaces presenting the situation, bringing the students and staff present along with them, increasing the group’s size, snowballing, until it ended up in Austria’s largest lecture hall, where a plenum was held, declaring that space squatted. The representation and size of that space was significant, as it brought immediate media attention, which has focused primarily on the events of that singular space ever since, although over the following days, the protests expanded rapidly to a number of other universities throughout Austria and expanded to or joined those existing across Europe, bringing hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in protest. There are 76 universities in nine countries throughout Europe, with more being continually announced, squatted at this very moment.
Emancipatory speech and decentralization
The processes within the context of the protests have taken place through a grassroots democratic structure of collective decision-making, carried out in regular plenums. Tasks and insights are assigned to work groups, which maintain a dynamic fluctuation of participants. The intention of non-hierarchical forms of communication, established through some basic rules, have aimed to encourage all those present to actively contribute to discussions. Since representing the protests is a task which no one person can or should accomplish alone, it is vital that no spokesperson(s) is/are selected, but rather that a consistent rotation of speakers takes place. The consequence is a low rate of NLP (neuro-linguistic programmed) speeches, presenting the demands and expressions of the groups in a manner which is not trained or conditioned. This form of direct communication represents an emancipatory speech act, because existing codes of commodified language and the sale of speech are rejected through the very mechanism of the act of speaking itself.
Another significant element, resonating throughout the protests on all levels, has been decentralization. It has derived from the very process, which has taken place over recent years, of the de-democratization of universities within which all democratically-legitimized regulating bodies have been degraded to a pseudo-democratic facade, and thereby entirely disabled. The fact that the protests have not been led by individuals elected through procedures of representative democracy and have not been associated with parliamentary parties, left politicians, such as deans or the Minister of Science and Research perplexed, not knowing how to handle the protests. The decentralization not only refers to the aforementioned fluctuation, but also refers to direct actions, such as the temporary squatting of the vice dean’s office at the Academy of Fine Arts, squatting the cafeteria at the Ministry of Science and Research or taking over the stage during a play at the Burgtheater, Vienna’s most renowned theater.
Counterpunch -- Wall Street Moves in for the Kill
The War on Consumers and Labor Heats Up
Wall Street Moves in for the Kill
By MICHAEL HUDSON
Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson wrote an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, February 16 outlining how to put the U.S. economy on rations. Not in those words, of course. Just the opposite: If the government hadn’t bailed out Wall Street’s bad loans, he claims, “unemployment could have exceeded the 25 per cent level of the Great Depression.” Without wealth at the top, there would be nothing to trickle down.
The reality, of course, is that bailing out casino capitalist speculators on the winning side of A.I.G.’s debt swaps and CDO derivatives didn’t save a single job. It certainly hasn’t lowered the economy’s debt overhead. But matters will soon improve, if Congress will dispel the present cloud of “uncertainty” as to whether any agency less friendly than the Federal Reserve might regulate the banks.
Paulson spelled out in step-by-step detail the strategy of “doing God’s work,” as his Goldman Sachs colleague Larry Blankfein sanctimoniously explained Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Now that pro-financial free-market doctrine is achieving the status of religion, I wonder whether this proposal violates the separation of church and state. Neoliberal economics may be a travesty of religion, but it is the closest thing to a Church that Americans have these days, replete with its Inquisition operating out of the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Columbia.
If the salvation is to give Wall Street a free hand, anathema is the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency intended to deter predatory behavior by mortgage lenders and credit-card issuers. The same day that Paulson’s op-ed appeared, the Financial Times published a report explaining that “Republicans say they are unconvinced that any regulator can even define systemic risk. … the whole concept is too vague for an immediate introduction of sweeping powers. …” Republican Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee was willing to join with the Democrats “to ensure ‘there is not some new roaming regulator out there … putting companies unbeknownst to them under its regime.”
Paulson uses the same argument: Because the instability extends not just to the banks but also to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, A.I.G. and Wall Street underwriters, it would be folly to try to regulate the banks alone! And because the financial sector is so far-flung and complex, it is best to leave everything deregulated. Indeed, there simply is no time to discuss what kind of regulation is appropriate, except for the Fed’s familiar protective hand: “delays are creating uncertainty, undermining the ability of financial institutions to increase lending to businesses of all sizes that want to invest and fuel our recovery.” So Paulson’s crocodile tears are all for the people. (Except that the banks are not lending at home, but are shoveling money out of the U.S. economy as fast as they can.)
As Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it, a crisis is too good a thing to waste. Having created the crisis, Wall Street wants to use its momentum to knock out any potential checks to its power. “No systemic risk regulator, no matter how powerful, can be relied on to see everything and prevent future problems,” Paulson explained. “That’s why our regulatory system must reinforce the responsibility of lenders, investors, borrowers and all market participants to analyze risk and make informed decisions,” In other words, blame the victims! The way to protect victims of predatory bank lending (and crooked sales of junk securities) is not new regulations but just the opposite: “to simplify the patchwork quilt of regulatory agencies and improve transparency so that consumers and investors can punish excesses through their own informed investing decisions.” Simplification means the Fed, not a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.