Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Coming Insurrection

In France, in 2009, gendarmes swooped on the village of Tarnac, in the Correze dĂ©partement in central France, pulling 20 alleged anarchist activists from their beds and arresting nine of them: the Tarnac Nine.  Two were subsequently released.  One of them, Julien Choupat, has been charged with authoring the anonymous anti-capitalist pamphlet, The Coming Insurrection.  The French state regards the Tarnac Nine as responsible for extensive damage and disruption to the French railway system.

In a recent article in Libération, a group of French intellectuals have claimed the authorship of the pamphlet, as a way of highlighting the increasing political censoriousness of French society, which accelerated after but dates from long before the Charlie Hebdo murders and aftermath.

Here is the original article:

Je suis l’auteur de «L’insurrection qui vient»

And here it is in English translation from the Verso website

I am the author of The Coming Insurrection



Monday, 22 June 2015

Summer Heats Up

I have not posted over the last few weeks, having realised that much, if not all, of my seemingly fantastic numbers of pageviews for this blog were derived in the last couple of months from 'bots' - shadowy automated websites originating in some of the newly dark places of the earth, which appear to 'refer' readers to sites such as mine.  I am not sure that these things did my site any real harm (though apparently some bots can - if I'd been selling material on this site, information such as card and bank details would have been vulnerable to bot-originated theft), but the inflated figures left me feeling rather deflated as to the worth of posting.

But, judging by my 'traffic sources' the bots have now decided to move on to other prey, and my ratings, while vastly more modest, are real once more.   So I'll post some material today, hopefully to cheer up my regular readers, and myself.

Today was meant to be the final showdown for the Greek government: it was to submit a final plan for renewed austerity measures to a council of Eurozone leaders, or face default and probably exit from the currency area by the end of the month.  But some kind of slip-up of documents has meant that the whole Mexican stand-off (I'm watching the Sergio Leone 'Dollar' films again - wonderfully stylish and cynical) has become a muddle with egg on every face in sight.  Here is Stathis Kouvelakis, a Greek historian of political ideas who teaches at King's College London and is connected to Syriza, writing on Jacobin:

In Search of Lost Time

I recently acquired a copy of Shulamith Firestone's Marxist-feminist classic, The Dialectic of Sex (see title of my previous post) - reissued by Verso - and the salutary fury of the book is energising and inspiring.  Here, also from Jacobin, is an essay of the kind she might write now, were she still alive, on the weakness and alienable character of liberal feminism in the age of neoliberal rationality:


The Sweatshop Feminists






Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Dialectics of Sex - Ireland's Gay Marriage Referendum and its Fallout

On May 22 last, two referendums and a by-election were held in Ireland.  The referendums were on amendments to the Constitution; the by-election was in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency, in the south midlands.

The major referendum was on gay marriage, and when the motion to permit same-sex marriage was put to the voters, it was carried by a 62%/38% majority.  I did not vote.

I disavowed the vote, because the campaign at its conclusion seemed to be almost hysterical in its all-encompassing fervour for the Yes vote, and I realised that voting Yes (the only way I would have voted) would have felt like bowing to a kind of browbeating.  But also the question itself seems very considerably a conservative one.   I find it hard to see the progressive content in a move which opens to gay people the opportunity to sanctify their relationships in the terms of the state and the law.  It's not clear to me why anyone would want to seek the recognition of the state to legitimate their love for another person.

I have to admit that there are problems in my position, and I am not fully comfortable in it.  Once we've admitted the discourse or the realm of rights, gay people must be entitled to equal rights with everyone else - unquestionably.  The constitutional recognition of the right of gay people to marry will bring happiness and benefits - in regard to medical rights, inheritance, taxation and many other areas.  But in the end, this seems to me a version of Marcusean 'repressive tolerance', a recognition of the right of gay people as individuals to be members of the Irish political mainstream, and so to be conservative with everyone else.  It confers what a friend of mine, quoting Nancy Fraser's Hegelian idiom, called recognition without redistribution - it's an improvement in social conditions at the level of discourse and individual rights, but with very little purchase at any other level.

The success of the Yes campaign has also been accompanied by hysteria - public emotion of what seems a synthetic kind.  Liberals have allowed themselves a huge amount of self-congratulation.  The most important liberal intellectual in the country, who these days seems to spend a lot of time out of the country, Fintan O'Toole (a columnist with the Irish Times, partly-resident for some time now at Princeton University) permitted himself a ludicrous paean to Ireland's having surpassed mere tolerance.  Within the terms of the dominant simplistic model of Irish 'modernisation', the Yes vote is a huge victory: it represents, in this view, the most profound rejection of tradition, of the Catholic Church, of old social and political mores, of old modes of political organisation and campaigning.  Opinion polls under discussion on RTE Radio One this evening suggest what is being called a 'gay bounce' in the ratings of the government.  The tourist economy eagerly anticipates the advent of the pink market.  Another friend pointed out to me how the Labour Party produced posters for the campaign which simply advocated a vote 'for equality'.  But the campaign, and now its victory, has swollen rhetorically, seeming to monopolize the field of understandings of 'equality', rudely shouldering aside minor matters such as economic equality, class equality, equality of access to what ought to be public goods such as education, culture and health services.

The euphoria belies the complexity of the situation.  The second referendum concerned a reduction in the permitted age of candidates for the presidency from 35 to 21 years.  This amendment to the constitution was rejected as emphatically as the idea of gay marriage was endorsed.  This, despite the alleged importance of a youth vote to the success of the latter.  In Carlow-Kilkenny, the by-election was won by Fianna Fail, with candidate Bobby Aylward returned to the Dail - Fianna Fail's first by-election victory since its wipe-out in the 2011 general election.

So here we have a properly overdetermined political conjuncture.  In Carlow-Kilkenny, voters said Yes to gay marriage, No to younger people being permitted to run for the presidency, and voted into the Dail a middle-aged veteran backwoods member of the political party which destroyed the economy.  In the light of this three-way complexity, much delight in progress seems possibly unwise.

I am posting here two essays from Jacobin, on the Irish referendum on gay marriage.  The referendum, and its result - the first time any nation-state has endorsed gay union in a general poll - has attracted international attention.  The essays reflect some of the complexity of the questions the referendum brings up.

From Gay Power to Gay Rights 


Ireland’s Break with Tradition