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Things have been a bit quiet here because we’ve been trying to piece together our thoughts on crisis for an article in the next Shift. Those speculations can be found here (although we may one day produce a slightly longer version because we ended up cutting sections on wealth and value, among other things).

I went to a really productive meeting at the CommonPlace last night, throwing about ideas on the financial crisis and trying to work out how best we can ‘intervene’ (ugh, bad word but you know what I mean). I’m slowly coming to terms to with the fact that I’m fairly crap in meetings: I get distracted too easily and lose the thread; plus I have the turning circle of a small tanker (a small tankie, even), and need time to digest new ideas. But I can think on my wheels, if not on my feet, so here are a few things that occurred to me on the way to work this morning.

As well as being a place to store our half-baked ideas, this blog is also meant to be a place where we can collect, record and circulate interesting stuff. And amidst all the shite that’s been written about the current credit/finance crisis, this piece (by George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici of Midnight Notes) really stands out. Read and think on…

We gave a talk recently over in Hebden Bridge. What follows are the bare bones of what we said, but if you scroll right to the end, there’s a concrete idea building on a recent post here.

We got asked to talk on the theme “Who will save us from the future?” which is the theme of the latest issue of Turbulence. We’re sort of going to do that but we’re departing a little from what is on the flyer and advertising for this meeting.

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I’ve been away so this overview is a bit late and more than a bit disjointed…

First up a couple of positives. Against an absurd level of police harassment, the camp for climate action refused to be intimidated… That might appear a small thing but it’s easy to underestimate the importance of such an open and public display of opposition. Elsewhere ‘politics’ is daily reduced to questions of public policy or style: step outside that and it’s a criminal/police matter. OK, an MP getting jostled and almost pepper-sprayed hardly matches up to Genoa or Bolzaneto but you know what I mean…

How do we face the future? The same way we face the past…

Maybe it’s because time’s dragging at the moment (the sun’s out and I’m slaving away at work), but I’ve been thinking about the way time works – how it speeds up, slows down, and occasionally crosses over on itself. And I’ve been trying to link that to our recent work on antagonism.

We gave a talk last night at the CommonPlace on capitalism and climate change. The slides and notes for it are available here, but a horribly brief summary goes like this…

The climate crisis is an energy crisis. It’s about the conversion of one form of energy (fossil fuels) into another. Physicists call that conversion ‘work’. But the climate crisis is also a ‘work’ crisis in the everyday sense of the word, because work is the main organising principle of capitalism. And the idea of ‘work’ as a separate, measurable activity is an incredibly recent one, dating back a few hundred years. Along with work goes separation, the way that we’re separated from each other, separated from the products of our labour, and separated from our environment (which is then tagged as ‘natural resources’). And money. But capitalism isn’t a thing out there. It’s a dynamic social relation. As we try to flee it, capital attempts to pull us back, chase us down, enclose our activities and order them through work. But capital also tries to escape us – or rather escape our insubordination. And it would like to escape its dependence upon us (ultimately of course it can’t, because the relationship is asymmetric). One of the ways it does this is by increasing the conversion of other forms of energy. So we get rising proportion of fossil-fuel (etc) energy to human energy etc etc. What does all this mean? Climate change is a limit to capital. But capital has a knack of overcoming its limits, of using them to fuel its own development. Climate change is not a challenge facing all of humanity equally, but a (set of) events that will intensify competition and reinforce hierarchies. Solutions to it have be collective and social.

Yeeuch, it’s a horrible mash-up. Sometimes it feels like we’re living in the last days of Babylon, with the strange becoming increasingly common and Deleuzian concepts storming up the charts; at other times it’s like the 1970s never really went away (I’m half expecting another Winter of Discontent run alongside a Crass revival). But of course it’s none of those. It’s just the way things are

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La la la
La la la la la
La la la
La la la la la…

We’ve been vaguely considering doing some sort of anthology of our work so far, and it’s made me think about the different ways of reading (and by extension of writing). My first reaction was that it would only be worth collecting up our various texts if we could somehow make them cohere, so that they stand up to scrutiny. But there’s a tension here (one that’s not necessarily productive). On a superficial level, there’s the whole academic trip where you attempt to pre-empt every criticism, shore up every argument and tie up any loose ends. But at a deeper level you can see this as the work of some molar perspective which seeks to totalise, to impose some sort of unity-in-identity, and to capture energy. “We have to relate this argument here to that one there… And how does this fit in?” But the end result might well be stasis or death. All the i’s are dotted, the t’s crossed. You know the feeling when you finish reading a book or article – it’s all clear, you agree with almost everything (how could you not?) but your response is “Yeah, and…?” It’s done to death. It has a trajectory that’s entirely predictable: the authors think A and B, therefore they’ll almost certainly think C.

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At the risk of sounding Hegelian, antagonism seems to have two sides to it. Dave’s mentioned how we are sometimes much closer to the most progressive wings of capital than to dickheads like Monbiot. If we’re about ‘production of the new’, how do we avoid that new being ‘captured’ by (or rather, becoming part of) capitalist development? One of the ways might be that antagonism draws a line in the sand, and says ‘this world is different from that one’. Of course we’re not separate from capital (it’s in here, not out there), and no amount of lines or fences will stop encroachment by capital. But antagonism can slow it down enough that we can make good our escape. Maybe antagonism can offer us time and space to become that-which-we-are-not.There’s also a positive side. ‘Positive’ and ‘negative’ are misleading, maybe it’s more like looking in and looking out. Whatever, this second aspect is the same as when you’re swimming. It’s really difficult to just start swimming in open water. It’s much easier to push off against something. Becoming is about movement. But it has to begin with some sort of ‘No’. Holloway might call it the scream. Massumi calls it an inhibition. However we figure it, it represents a rupture. A break with the world-as-it-is, an “unhinging of habit”. That’s how some people saw the riot in Rostock, as a way of saying No to enable us to develop our Yeses.


I know I’m a bit late with this (I’ve been searching for the missing mass of the universe) but I stumbled across an interesting snippet about the response to Tony Wilson’s death. Apparently someone went down to Whitworth Street and chucked a load of yellow and black paint over the posh flats where the Hacienda used to stand. OK, it’s not big, and it’s not clever but it makes a lot more sense than some of the shite that I’ve come across.

Just a quick note to let y’all know that Worlds in Motion, our article for Turbulence, has finally been approved. All i’s dotted and t’s crossed and it’s here. That’s me with the Engels beard by the way…
The whole Turbulence experience has been a bit, well, turbulent. We wrote the bulk of the article at the back end of last year so it seems a bit stale now, altho it will improve with age, like a fine whine. But one of the tensions that’s become apparent right at the end has been the one between identity and affinity. I’ve just had a look round the back and seen that Keir’s brewing up a blog post on this very subject (“Two sugars, mate! You got any biscuits?”), so I don’t want to steal his thunder. But on the day that this happens, it does raise a lot of questions about the whole identity/affinity thing. Strange things can happen very quickly, and sometimes we find ourselves without the tools to deal with new situations. Which can itself be brilliant.
One of the oddest moments at the recent global meeting in Venice was the session on the Middle East. When Musthapha Barghouti finished speaking, the hall erupted into a massive standing ovation. We were sat at the front and it was weird to turn round and see 700 people on their feet applauding & cheering a government minister. It’s the same with Sinn Fein: one minute we all seem to be moving in the same circles, the next their preferred channels of communication are with Labour ministers. Some of this relates to sovereignty and governance. But part is also to do with how identity politics exploded in the mid-1980s. At its worst, there was an unofficial scorecard operating, a hierarchy of oppressions. Where did this come from? From below, from that drive towards autonomy and self-determination. But also from above, as parties struggled to construct a new constituency: the Labour Party with the GLC, the left with Marxism Today. Of course the miners’ strike fucked a lot of this up, as old-fashioned class war returned to the streets. And it also helped draw a line, behind which another constituency could develop: ‘You want identity politics? What about class, the biggest identity of all?’ But it’s daft to see one as good, and one as bad. Some of the most productive moments come when identity rubs up against affinity. And that was what was interesting about the Barghouti ovation. Right, I can see you’re getting bored, so we can return to this when Keir’s done his post. Class dismissed.


A lot of us running around talking about politics don’t even know what politics is. Did you ever see something and pull it and you take it as far as you can and it almost outstretches itself and it goes into something else? If you take it so far that it is two things? As a matter of fact, some things if you stretch it so far, it’ll be another thing. Did you ever cook something so long that it turns into something else? Ain’t that right? That’s what we’re talking about with politics.

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Sorry about this, but we’re trying to tidy this blog up so it’s a bit more useful to the random passer-by (we get loads of those). In the past we’ve used this space as a way of composing our collective thoughts. And when it works, it works really well. But for the last couple of months we’ve been working on an article which we’ve just submitted to Turbulence (as soon as it’s finalised we’ll post it here) and this blog has become a little too introspective. So we’re now setting up a private room, round the back, where we can tinker with ideas without imposing on you lot too much.
And then hopefully this space can become a little more productive, a little more interactive, and maybe a tad less painful.

I’m half-way through a new book by one of the founders of Class War. It’s pretty un-fucking-putdownable (see, it’s already having an impact on the way I write), mainly cos it captures that whole sense of potential that existed in the mid to late 1980s. Some of this might be pure nostalgia, but it was a pretty mad time. And one of the things that was mad about it was the seamless way struggles flitted back and forth without any of the sniping or prejudice that set in later. There didn’t seem to be any outright contradiction between any of these struggles – anarcho-punk squatters, anarcha-feminist peace campers, animal rights activists, striking miners, wannabe rioters etc. Sure there was loads of tension, some of it pretty aggressive and intense, but all of it was productive. Resonance produced movement: we seemed to be going somewhere (probably related to the fact that we were often literally going somewhere: demos, marches, Stonehenge, Henley…).

(Note to self: must use this blog more often)

We’ve recently re-worked our piece on anti-capitalist movements for inclusion in a book scheduled to come out next year (we’ll post it, along with the book details, once it’s been finally accepted). The original article was written some five years ago, and it was strange coming back to it after such a gap. For one thing, some of it was awfully clunky – reflecting our own lack of confidence, I think, and the fact that we had yet to develop a style of our own. But I was surprised how well some of the ideas still stood up, especially the whole movement-as-thing which we’re always banging on about. We’d already gone back to the piece for What is a life?, so maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. All the same, I find this sort of ‘consistency’ (continuity?) quite reassuring: we might be barking up the wrong tree, but at least it’s the same damn tree and we haven’t (yet) started chasing cars or howling at the moon…

I know I risk becoming trop français here, but I couldn’t let this one slip through… Spotted this on the libcom forums yesterday, which is proving a great place for first hand reports as much as analysis & debate. Anyway, this comes from someone who’d just spent five days in Rennes and picks up as they’re leaving a demo/march/riot: